Boosting confidence in students through debates

Tuesday April 17 2018


By Devotha John @TheCitizenTz

Holding debates in schools has a lot of advantages. Debating helps improve students communication skills, self-confidence, language skills as well as skills to analyse information among others.

Some schools hold debate sessions once every week, which has been useful in helping students master the English language as well as public speaking skills. Inviting in students from other schools, pitching pupils/students against teachers can be a great way to get students involved in debating.

Last Saturday, schools in Dar es Salaam participated in the 2nd Africa Open Schools Debate Championships (AOSDC), which was organised by Feza International school in Salasala.

The competition aimed at equipping students with better self-expression skills but most importantly, to enable them to address national and global issues of which they are expected to be part of the solution.

The Africa open debate competition was hosted and organised by Feza schools in collaboration with the Ministry of Regional Administration and Local Governments. It was debate competition held on Saturday last week.

The competitors

Secondary schools which participated in the championship include the host Feza, Morogoro Seconday School, Tusiime Secondary School, Al Muntazir Islamic Seminary, Shamsiye, Laureate, Baobab (Bagamoyo), Barbro Johansson, Eagles (Bagamoyo), Feza boys, Premier Girls (Bagamoyo), Kona Stone High School in Arusha, Green Acres Secondary School and including schools from Uganda, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

“The outreach of the Africa open debate competition together with the genius cup competition involved 10 schools from different regions of Tanzania and more than 3,000 students in various categories.”

Five preliminary rounds took place with only 8 teams making it to the quarter finals before a highly contested semifinal.

The final debate involved Feza International and Al Muntazir Isalamic Seminary who won the cut-throat competition.

Positive feedback from students

Saluha Aboud, a student from Al Muntazir Islamic Seminary says through debate, students learn different things about the environment they live in and that debating also helps them improve academically.

“We learn different things, including things we don’t know in our world. Debating allows students to figure out what they want to focus on in their daily lives,” he says.

He adds that debating makes students stand out at work when they finally finish school.

He says debating helps students master the English language, which is very important in the job market today, it helps in getting scholarships, fellowships and it also gives students the exposure to the world.

Saluha says debating keeps students on their toes as they have to read extensively to defend the various topics for discussion.

This helps them acquire wide knowledge on different topics, which he says is useful in life.

Herman Mosha, a student from Kona Stone High School in Arusha, concurs, saying through debate, students enrich their knowledge with new ideas from all walks of life.

“Debate equips students with new knowledge on how to view the world in a different perspective,” he notes.

Herman commended the organisers of Saturday debate championship, as well as his school, which allowed them to participate in the competition.

According to Thabit Yusuph from Feza Boys Secondary School, the competition was meant to evaluate and enhance the skills and ability of Tanzania students, particularly on the whole aspect of debating.

“This year’s competition was good and we were better prepared to compete with the schools from across the country,” he says.

Another student from Feza Boys, David Edson says debating in Tanzania is not as established as is the case in neighbouring countries.

He says Saturday’s competition was a step in the right direction and urges schools to give students the opportunity to participate in debates and debating competitions.

“Tanzanians have the potential to be among the best in Africa and international competitions. Our only hindrance is that we lack the platform to establish ourselves,” says the Form Six student.

Feza International School Director, Ibrahim Rashid says Feza schools aim at promoting social studies and sciences as well.

“This competition is based on social subjects also. We are set to organize a competition that will focus on science subjects by the end of this month, which I think, will be much better than this,” says Ibrahim.

Africa open schools debate championships also collaborate with orate Africa and invite international teams to increase the exposure rendered by the competitions to the students and also enhance diversity.

Ibrahim calls on the government to support debating competitions as they are a platform to developing astute leaders in future.

The permanent secretary in the ministry of education, Dr Leonard Akwilapo, commended the debate organisers, noting that he had seen how schools are set to develop students’ speaking skills alongside critical thinking abilities.

“The Ministry of Education and Vocational Training has the curriculum that emphasizes debate in schools, mainly to develop students’ speaking skills as well as to inculcate in learners the acumen and self confidence while speaking before the public,” he noted.

Adding that the government is set to improve school infrastructure alongside curbing teachers shortage in a bid to ensure public schools record good academic performance as private schools do.