November 20, 2015 By Ibrahim Tarawallie
The National Youth Commission (NAYCOM) says it is determined and poised to revive debating culture in secondary schools across the country.
Under a project titled: “Enhancing Youth Civic Engagement in the Democratic Processes in Sierra Leone” which is funded by the Open Society Initiative of West Africa (OSIWA), the commission yesterday commenced a three-day training for debaters from selected secondary schools in Northern Province and the Western Urban and Rural Distrists.
Speaking during the opening ceremony at the St. Edwards Secondary School in Freetown, Youth Commissioner Anthony Koroma explained that the project is in its pilot phase, but expressed hope it would be cascaded to other parts of the country.
He added that the idea of reviving debating culture in schools hinges around building the confidence of pupils in public speaking.
“One does not need to have a first and masters degree to be an eloquent speaker. We have some junior school pupils who can speaker well more than those in the universities, but you need the confidence to be able to perform well,” he said.
Mr. Koroma urged participants to be attentive and put into practice what they would be taught during the training, and spoke about their determination to strengthen the Sierra Leone Debating Council and for debating committees to be able to organise debates in schools.
NAYCOM’s Youth Empowerment Officer II, Jamilatu Jalloh, said that involving young people in debates does not only contribute to developing their skills for critical, creative and collaborative thinking, but also provide them the opportunity to be exposed to issues and voice their opinion.
She noted that the aim of the project was to provide a platform for learning, debating and alliance building skills for constructive engagement in the democratic governance process.
According to her, the project was designed to establish ten debating teams in five districts, with two coming from the Western Urban and Rural Areas, Port Loko, Moyamba and Kenema respectively.
“The debate will be organised in the operational areas in Moyamba, Kenema, Port Loko, and Western Area respectively. To attract a wider audience, 10 vibrant debate clubs both from secondary schools and the community to debate issues of national and global interest,“ she said.
Ms. Jalloh revealed that the commission was working in partnership with the Sierra Leone Debating Council and also community stakeholders, including school administrations, District Education Offices, Local Councils and District Youth Councils to identify and organise the debating teams in each of the five districts.
Also, OSIWA Country Officer Joe H. Pemagbi stressed that debating was extremely important as it helps promote dialogue and allow pupils to think outside the box in bringing out innovative ways to solve issues.
He urged NAYCOM to work closely with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and schools authorities, among others, to ensure the successful implementation of the project.