Debating boosts students’ confidence, improves knowledge and skills

Debating broadens students’ way of thinking, develops their ability to think critically and solve problems – and increases overall confidence and public speaking abilities, said Abiel Intwarane, a third-year law student from the University of Rwanda (UR) who emerged as the best speaker at the Global Commonwealth Inter-Tertiary Schools Debating Championship held in Accra, Ghana.

Intwarane’s debate team and that of the Enugu State University of Science and Technology in Nigeria were named as the best in the competition that brought together debaters from different qualifying universities across the globe. The debate ended on 28 September 2021. Its aim is to instil the passion for debate in young people across the Commonwealth.

“It was a magnificent feeling. I was recognised as the tournament’s best speaker, an individual award given to the speaker with the best performance regardless of his or her team’s performance,” said Intwarane.

According to Dr Anne Marie Kagwesage, the director of the Centre for Language Enhancement at the UR and a senior lecturer of foreign languages, the University of Rwanda promotes debate around the campus.

“We have a supportive and student-focused leadership that understands the potential of debate activities in increasing knowledge, self-confidence and communication on a variety of topics,” she said.

The debate team of the UR is composed of five students from the College of Arts and Social Sciences, School of Law and College of Medicine and Health Sciences.

“Our team opposed the motion, ‘Has education been a success or failure in the modern era?’, saying, it is not a failure. We outperformed those in attendance and the judges’ verdict was in our favour,” Intwarane said.

Earlier, in June, Intwarane and his team emerged as the winners in the debate on the African continental level held in Abuja, Nigeria, where the team was selected along with two others to represent the African continent at global level.

Intwarane said he has been debating for almost seven years and won national championships in 2016, 2017 and 2019. He also won two awards in high school and one at university.

He said fear is the worst enemy of students who stress about debate. “Fear makes you doubt yourself [and makes you feel] that you can’t make it. The best way to overcome fear is to hold your head high, be brave and never give in to your fear and there is no better place to learn how to do that than in a room with a large audience listening to you debating,” he said.

“Last, but not least, debate will shape every aspect of your life through building confidence and critical thinking,” he added.

Kagwesage said the university promotes debate around the campus and has various debating clubs at class, school, and college level. The university has six colleges throughout the country.

“We organise regular debate practices and competitions at each level where the best performers make up the UR level debate team that went for the continental and global competition,” said Kagwesage, who accompanied the team in the competition.

“We also partner with Aspire Debate Rwanda, who participate in training and coaching teams at UR level,” she added.

Debates help the university to prepare their young students to become current and future leaders, informed about a variety of topics and able to communicate relevant ideas to a wider audience confidently, Kagwesage said.

“The team won the Commonwealth Inter-Tertiary Schools Debating Championship because they were well prepared and had the necessary support along the competition journey. At individual level, they were well prepared and motivated to win, and they worked hard to reach their target,” she said.

“The vice-chancellor himself [Professor Alexandre Lyambabaje] addressed them and encouraged them before they left for the competition,” she noted, adding that the team received all the needed support and encouragement from the Rwandan embassies in Nigeria during the African level competitions and in Ghana during the global competition.

Other invited teams included American continent representatives from Webster University in Accra, Wisconsin International University College, and Radford University College, Accra.

The invited European continent representatives were the European-American University; Kingston Management and Health Institute, Accra; Lancaster University, Ghana, and the All Nations University in Ghana. Representatives from Asia were the Madurai Kamaraj University, Accra, and Shiv India Institute of Management and Technology, Ghana.