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4 May 2002

South African Report to 2002 Worlds Council

At the 2002 Worlds Council countries were invited to submit a report to the council to let other nations know about debating in their country.  It was not compulsory but a number of nations gave reports.

South African Report to 2002 Worlds Council

1. Introduction

University debating, as everyone reading this report knows it, effectively began in 1996 in South Africa with the hosting of the first South African National Universities Debating Championships, followed by the 1997 World Universities Debating Championships - both of these events presented by the University of Stellenbosch Debating Society.

University debating had, in some form or another, existed in South Africa since 1876 when Stellenbosch University (then Victoria College) started a debating society. Active debate suffered throughout the apartheid era in South Africa and as such many generations have been unexposed to the benefits of active debate and critical thought. Questioning discussions and criticism was not encouraged and in many instances violently opposed. Thankfully the situation at current is one of a relatively peaceful democracy where criticism and intellectual discussion is not only tolerated but openly encouraged. This is evident in the sudden increase in the number of debating societies at tertiary institutions all over South Africa.

During the first National Championships in 1996, members of the universities of Stellenbosch, Rhodes, Cape Town (UCT) and the Witwatersrand (Wits) founded the National Debating Council (NDC) of South Africa. The NDC is committed to developing debating in South Africa on all levels and as such has recently hosted the World Schools Debating Championships in Johannesburg - an event that we are led to believe ranks amongst the most successful of its kind ever. The NDC governs university debating in South Africa and has over thirty members institutions comprising universities, colleges and technikons (South African technical colleges) from South and Southern Africa. At present the NDC is an unincorporated body although incorporation is being considered - this can, of course, only take place once we’ve weeded out all the megalomaniacs which, considering debaters personas, could take forever.

For a copy of the NDC constitution, check out - yes, we have electricity, computers and even running water. And NO, I DO NOT have a pet lion.

South African debating has seen a period of exponential growth since 1996. Unfortunately the growth has been very much at “grass-roots” level (apologies to all South Africans reading this - I know we all hear that way too much) resulting in far more work being required to raise the general standard of South African debate to a level comparable to international standards.

2. Institutions

Tertiary education institutions in South Africa fall into four categories:

• Universities - which provide undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in arts, sciences, commerce and so forth.

• Colleges - which provide diplomas in field similar to those provided for by universities.

• Technikons - technical training colleges providing training in engineering, sciences and so forth.

• Specialised institutions - schools specialising in marketing, art, theatre, etc. At present no debating societies exist at these institutions.

At present, NDC member institutions are from the first three categories mentioned above, namely universities, colleges and technikons. Of the above all are recognised by the Ministry of education. Universities also include distance education or correspondence courses offered by universities. The NDC recognises distance education students and they are, as such, eligible to debate and adjudicate.

SA debating recognises all institutions in an effort to allow everyone equal access and opportunity to the art of debating and all the benefits associated with it. We hope that the WUDC will grant our member institutions the same opportunity. Currently the WUDC constitution only seems to allow for the participation of Universities as such. In light of this I would ask for clarification on this issue for South Africa.

3. Advanced Degrees

The South African academic model is similar to the European model in that professional degrees are undergraduate degrees. Advanced degrees are only available through universities. All students, be they undergraduate or post graduate (Masters or Doctoral) from universities or undergraduates from other tertiary institutions are eligible to debate in NDC sanctioned events in South Africa. The vast majority of debaters are undergraduate with some post-graduate participants.

Professional training and internships are conducted using an apprenticeship model. As is the case with Israel, graduates undergoing apprenticeship are not considered students unless simultaneously pursuing a qualification.

4. Multiple Debating Societies
No academic institutions in South Africa have more than one debating society from external viewpoints. As mentioned in the Israeli Report, funding - from either corporate or institutions’ administrations - is extremely hard to come by and in light of this multiple debating societies is not realistic of likely.

The Cape Technikon, in the Western Cape, has in the past had what they referred to as different societies on campus. This was, in reality, a way of fostering competition on campus as the societies merged and competed united under the Cape Technikon name at all competitions that they took part, most recently the 2000 National Championships.

In the event of multiple debating societies operating, the issue will be dealt with by the NDC which will take a decision as to the validity of the society. It is very difficult to foresee any problems with the recognition of a society which meets the same criteria as any other NDC member and I look forward to the day when debating on any South African campus is so competitive that two rival societies and exist on one campus. Just think, we could have intersociety drinking competitions too.

5. Development
The NDC actively encourages the growth of debating in South Africa - as such the National Championships have, since the 1999 tournament (hosted by Wits University) featured a training session for all new participants. In addition to this, training booklets and videos are provided by the NDC to universities seeking assistance and in some instances universities with established societies have made trips to campuses where debating had not existed and facilitated training workshops, etc.

Active promotion of high school debating is also a priority for the NDC as an active culture of debate in high schools country wide in beneficial to the growth and development of the South African youth and debating in general. That and it makes for better debaters.

6. Debating

All intervarsity debating is conducted in the Worlds style (referred to at times as British Parliamentary (BP) style) and the NDC actively promotes the use of the style to facilitate South African teams hassle free participation Worlds now and in the future. Only currently registered students are eligible to debate and anyone (within reason) is eligible to adjudicate. Active steps are being taken to formalising a system of adjudicator accreditation within South Africa.

7. Language

South Africa has eleven official languages. No, seriously. Most South African tertiary institutions are ESL institutions and receive instruction in Xhosa, Zulu, Afrikaans, Venda, Sotho, Tswana and so forth. Teams competing in South African competitions registering as ESL teams are evaluated on the level of English spoken and the language preference of their institutions. Regarding the WUDC, many South African teams have and will in the future be registering as ESL teams. In light of this the suggestion at Council this year that the National Representative be consulted in the event of any doubt seems fair in our situation as the NDC rep at Worlds will always be in a position to distinguish the matter when someone with no knowledge of South Africa may not.

This concludes the South African Report. I respectfully submit this document

on behalf of the NDC in my capacity as chairperson.

Kevin Burden.

NDC Chair

SA Rep - Worlds Council.

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