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4 June 2009

Stories from PAUDC

Stories of the Ugandan participants at the
Inaugural Pan African Universities Debate Championship held at University of Botswana, Gaborone Botswana 8th to 14th December 2008

Isabella Akiteng
I attended the championship as coach to two Ugandan teams that comprised of two females and two males. The tournament had five rounds before teams could break to the quarter finals and I am proud to say that both teams managed to make it to the quarterfinals from which they were eliminated. This makes me proud as a coach because among the teams that had no prior training and experience in this kind of debate, Uganda managed to make it this far. The teams were very cooperative and hardworking and managed to beat some of the very strong countries.

Some of the remarks that were brought out during the team meetings was that the method was so interesting and should be introduced in the Ugandan universities in a bid to develop the skills of the students as well as improve on the quality of those who may at any one time move out to represent Uganda at any such championship. Part of the strategy that we came up with included starting up debates among our friends at the university because they are the easiest to reach. Anthony accepted to host the first inaugural training at the Uganda Christian University Mukono in the early months of the year 2009.

It is my earnest prayer that OSI shall continue to support these activities for the development of the whole of Africa and this is so because if we all are looking at Africa developing at the same pace then this intellectual debates should be brought to the level that it exists among the SADC countries because I believe that is one of the reasons the south is at the forefront of development and an aspect we seriously need to put into consideration.

Anthony Okanyum:
The debate was an event of light to me both as an individual and National of Uganda who owes responsibility of establishing democracy in Uganda, East Africa and Africa as a whole. As an individual, I learnt that life is challenging, one has to think both sides of the decision one is to take, it helps one appreciate the best road to take. As a citizen, I learnt that the destiny of a democratic society is tolerance and ability to accept and appreciate others’ opinions in an analytical manner. I also learnt that Uganda, East Africa and Africa can change their political course from war to peaceful measures through development of debate as a skill and an alternative to violence.

However, there is a need to develop debate initiatives in Uganda through establishing links among institutions of learning and at the national level. As discussed with the team members, I am organizing a debate at Uganda Christian University scheduled for February 2009.

Agaba Daphine
The debate championship was a great learning experience in my life. When we meet people and we are challenged or impressed with them we want to learn or emulate from them. I was impressed by the fluency of some teams from the different countries especially their good command of English, their extreme and critical knowledge of current events in Africa and the World as a whole, their witty thinking and their polished debating skills.

First of all I learnt to differentiate between being a good speaker and a good debater. I have always prided myself on being an effective speaker, I was however taught that however fluent, loud, clear one is; in order to be a good debater one had to learn to be an effective listener in that one didn’t only hear what some one was saying but also to the meaning behind their words, to be a quick thinker and being well informed in that in just 7 minutes allocated to every speaker one should have impacted on their audience enough to sway them to his or her side. I also learnt that as a debater one had to do away with personal bias, view, judgment and sometimes even profound beliefs. This is so because sometimes you might be given a motion to debate, which you are against as an individual.

Being a novice to this debate format and type I did what can be referred to as “learning on the job” and this taught me how to be a quick learner as I not only had to master the important pointers that would determine the winning of the debate I also had to apply them instantly in the ensuring debates. I also learnt how to operate under pressure whilst preparing my self for the debate because we were always given 15 minutes prior to the debate to prepare our selves. Further more I learnt more about teamwork. Having been a leader before I had learnt a great deal about teamwork .In this case though I had only one teammate and we were totally different in gender, character each had their own flaws, and strengths and weaknesses but we all had one thing in common the zeal to win or excel in the debate. With this in mind we learnt to work with each other’s strengths to compliment each other to achieve a certain consonance that worked for us.

There is also one important pointer I learnt; it is very vital to appeal to the judge (adjudicator) Just like judges are different in character different things appeal to them more than others. Some judges appeal to humor while others hate it, some wanted facts or evidence to sway them to your side, some were swayed by engaging and accomplished speakers, some were easily swayed by emotional speakers, some judges however followed their scripts critically and judged the teams according to how best they had executed their roles or the sides they had been given. In order to excel one had to be good in their matter and manner of presentation. The wise thing to do was to incorporate all the main pointers like facts, humor, be clear and loud so that the judge hears all your points, if one is given a side for instance an opposition side they should carry out their roles well, it’s sometimes good to include emotions to sway the judge but by all means put on your best show and after that leave the rest to the judge.

Debate is a very important tool in helping Africa as a continent to forge ahead. Some of the problems affecting Africa include despotic leadership which leads to dictator ship manifested in clinging on to power, wars hinged on power sharing, corruption. All these problems affect the common man as they lead to wars that lead to massive loss of lives, diseases, massive unemployment, starvation and cases of abject poverty as is the case with countries like Zimbabwe, Northern Uganda, Darfur region of Sudan, Somalia, Congo.

Sometimes big problems can be solved by simple solutions. If African leaders could only realize that if one is against a certain policy of yours they aren’t against you as an individual thereby learning that disagreements and opposition are a fact of life and indeed accepting criticism makes us better individuals because as we strive to come up with better ideas in turn we come up with the best solutions aimed at improving every one’s life which is simply what debate is all about. In some of the developed countries leaders of states have seemingly explosive debates all the time and still remain friends if not for any other reason for the good of the nation. Therefore a spirit of debate should be inculcated among the youth of Uganda so that they become more open minded to make them better leaders in future and the best place to start is at the University or even in the secondary schools.

Hannah Muzee
I was full of a lot of anxiety and expectation donned on me that i had to do a lot of preparation both physically and mentally so as to get ready for the task ahead of me. Every single day was bombarded with the motion that i was going for a competition and how it was essential for me to get ready. This required one to feed his or her mind with positive thoughts. Because we are what we think.

Despite the fact that sometimes i could doubt myself, i had to keep on side and keep on telling myself – “i can make it”. The debating experience was very amazing and eye opening. It gave me a picture of what life is. They say life is full of ups and downs and that is what it actually is. The fluctuations in our performance served to make me strong and tell me that failure is not the end of everything but a step forward.

We all happen to be products of our past but we do not live by it. What happen served to show me my potentials and how i can harness them to achieve better. I am glad to mention that we went to the quarter finals and am grateful for it. I will however mention that i thought that we would go at least to the semi finals though our debating experience was wanting. May be i was over confident but there is no harm in it. However i must admit what an experience it was - great exposure and learning. I believe I am a much better person debate wise. I am also willing to work with anyone to break the ice of debate in the Ugandan society so as to give others the opportunity i had.

Mayanja Jamil,
On a very solitary morning I received a call from the warden of female hostels in the university and she told me someone representing OSI is looking for some students with debating ability and I said I would be interested in talking to him. Five minutes there and then he gave me a call and I met him and we had a deep friendly discussion and that’s when I got into going to Botswana to debate.

The debates were quite challenging as I was doing them for the first time. However they had very good topics to discuss. It was a real battle of the intellects of people. The adjudicators always came up to show us our mistakes and areas where we were supposed to improve. The debates taught me that arguments should be aimed at constructive reasoning not mere bouts of speech and cheap discussion.

However, I would like to say that I feel it my duty to make sure that debate develops here in Uganda. In Uganda we have a very old, awkward way of debate. We need to exploit other debates and reason differently. This is very possible. I have the literature I got from the PAUDC which I am sharing slowly with other people who can debate.

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