“They both have good ideas to take the country forward. But they just don’t like each other….”-Dominic Hopkinson, student
“I don’t want to see an angry Government and an angry opposition and that is exactly how they sound. They come off as being too divided. It was kind of intimidating how they were participating in the debate. I would like to see more unity in Parliament..”- Jennifer Clarke, student
“It was very heated, too heated. The things I see here don’t match what our English Teacher, Miss Griffith taught us about the rules and so forth about debating…” Elizabeth Ramsaran, student
By: Kiana Wilburg
Accompanied by their principal, Miss Carlyn Canterbury, and English teacher Miss Arita Griffith, a group of 25 students from the President’s College took to the National Assembly last Wednesday to absorb all they could about the techniques of debating.
They saw this as an ideal opportunity to see the nation’s leaders, whom they held in high esteem as “seasoned and civilized” debaters, demonstrate the ins and outs of the civilized exchange of ideas.
But they left disappointed, since what they had witnessed in the hallowed halls of the National Assembly were things they would never even attempt to emulate in their upcoming debating competition.
Many of the students were dumbfounded at the level of division and mudslinging which took place in the National Assembly. They walked away disappointed at the attitude of the nation’s leaders.
Dominic Hopkinson was one such student.
“I found it to be really interesting. I understood both sides; Government and Opposition and what they want for Guyana. But I don’t see why they cannot speak to each other in a more respectful way though,” Hopkinson said.
“To me, it is like the Opposition side does not like or appreciate what Government has to offer. For me, they both have good ideas to take the country forward. But they just don’t like each other.”
His colleague, Elizabeth Ramsaran, agreed. She too, found the points put forward by the Members of Parliament to be rather organized and captivating but was left feeling troubled by the tone proceedings.
“It was a valuable experience and I hope that our teacher can bring us some more so we can hear from our leaders. But it was very heated, too heated. The things I see here don’t match what our English Teacher, Miss Griffith taught us about the rules and so forth about debating. Like I saw that many times Government members were interrupting the speakers on the Opposition side and the Opposition was doing the same instead of just listening to what each other had to say and just argue about the policies.”
“But their points were very valuable in some cases. I particularly enjoyed Miss Vindya Persaud and Public Telecommunications Minister, Miss Cathy Hughes. Miss Hughes was very clear and had lots of details. I enjoyed Persaud because she was very articulate and showed a lot of concern for women’s rights and what she wants for us. It was admirable. I thought she had a lot of good points. But then it was disappointing to see Miss (Opposition Chief Whip Gail) Teixeira and Miss Hughes arguing with each other in the beginning. I did not expect that.”
As for Tyra Mc Adam, she, too, was impressed but expressed displeasure in the manner in which the Parliamentarians exchanged their views.
“I thought it was a good initiative for us to see them express their thoughts because we have debating competitions coming up next week and I learned a lot from them but I don’t like how they were talking down to each other . I was a bit disappointed because at the end of the day, what matters most is taking Guyana forward and I thought that is what they do here. It is as though they argue about each other more than anything. It would be good for all of us if they just work together.”
Jennifer Clarke was particularly excited by the presentation made by Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira, who she described as starting off the debate with much “fire and intensity.” But even this student of Form Four Science was left wanting more.
“I don’t want to see an angry Government and an angry opposition and that is exactly how they sound. They come off as being too divided. It was kind of intimidating how they were participating in the debate. I would like to see more unity in Parliament,” she appealed.
Akeem Crandon also said that he would like to see a more cohesive Parliament.
“I don’t see cohesion here. It’s like this side doesn’t like that side and they were insulting each other. I don’t think that is a good example for us. When I look at them I see a group of people who are supposed to be working together to make Guyana a better place to live in. For me, most of them spend too much time fretting about what they don’t like about each other. I would not do that in a debating competition because you would lose points for straying off the topic. They do that a lot here. I guess they debate in a different way here.”
Eventually, most of the students from Form Four Science agreed that both Government and Opposition must learn to work together.
The students did however; left with great examples of how to deliver with passion.
Speaking to Kaieteur News, President’s College Principal, Miss Carlyn Canterbury, said that her school takes the art of debating very seriously and it was her idea to bring the students to see the nation’s leaders participate in the budget 2016 debates.
Canterbury is hopeful that the students walked away with meaningful lessons which they can incorporate in their internal debating competition.
She said, too, that the school’s debating team will be launched on Friday. The team will be going up against several schools across the country in the JOF Haynes Memorial Inter-Secondary Schools Debating Competition.
The JOF Haynes Memorial Inter-Secondary Schools Debating competition is held annually to commemorate the late Joseph Oscar Fitzclarence Haynes who in his day, was recognized as an ardent debater and a most distinguished lawyer of his generation.
Mr. Haynes started this competition 24 years ago, and the Education Ministry has since continued with this tradition.
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