Let’s debate! | Daily News

Let’s debate!

Some members of the winning Wesley team with the Dr N M Perera Memorial Challenge Trophy 2020
Some members of the winning Wesley team with the Dr N M Perera Memorial Challenge Trophy 2020

A persevering team of young English debaters of Wesley College emerged victorious at the 31st edition of the ‘Dr N M Perera Memorial Challenge Trophy 2020’ held in February 2020 at Ananda College.

Wesley College team competed with Stafford International School, Colombo, in the final round to win the trophy.

Dr N M Perera Memorial Challenge Trophy aka NMP being the foremost annual event in the schools debating calendar is organized by Ananda College.This prominent and much awaited debating event in the country is structured in the traditional four-man Oxford style format with all debaters on prepared motions.

The winning Wesley English debating team’s pursuit has been energized by their teacher-in-charge Dimuthu Liyanamanne who is also the sectional head of grade eight and nine classes. The persistence demonstrated by her in guiding and motivating the young debaters to achieve these heights reminds us of Sydney Poitier’s character in ‘To Sir with Love’. Nevertheless, Liyanamanne is a lady teacher.

Grooming the team

Speaking to the Daily News T&C Liyanamanne said, “Even when I joined in 2005, Wesley College did have a good debating team. However, eventually it didn’t function well due to various reasons and the Principal of the collage asked me to groom the junior English debating team. Though I have no association with this subject before, I took up the challenge as I saw the eagerness of the children to engage in debating. We had to adhere also to a requirement in the 2017 prize giving to recognize the best junior and senior debaters. Hence, I organized a tournament within the school to select the best debaters.

While organizing it we saw the potential of the students and decided to take it one step further to revive the debating club in May 2017 to function as it was earlier. Steadily we have progressed to show results”.

Andrew Usman and Sachini have teamed up with her to groom the young debaters. From inception they have benchmarked with the standards of NMP to groom the team. Malin Jayasuriya, a former active member of the debating club too has offered a helping hand.

Principal of the Wesley College Avanka Fernando has offered his blessings for this endeavour.

The main strategy adopted by Liyanamanne and her team has been to conduct workshops to create the right background knowledge for the budding debaters.

“Wesley College participated in the NMP from 2017 and we could win the trophy in 2020. ‘Team A’ that became champions was comprised with Ordinary level and Advanced level students.They have formed a WhatsApp group to communicate within team members and were really self-motivated”, she said.

Young leader of Gen Z

ToThe debating team’s president Muftee Mysan who is a grade 12 student and a passionate debater said debating has inculcated better values in his life. Muftee was the under 17 cricket captain of the school.

“Liyanamanne was the pillar behind our success. In 2017 we became novice semi-finalists of NMP, in 2018 novice runners up, in 2019 semi-finalists and in 2020 we won the NMP trophy. Hence, winning NMP was a result of constant hard work and focus”, he said.

“In the NMP knockout rounds the teams gets only 30 minutes to prepare for a particular topic. Our mentor motivated us to read a lot to gather knowledge on various subjects and to have a sound knowledge of things happening around the world, to do justice to debating topics”, he added.

Mufteeis a good example of the new breed of youngsters in the world that is called the ‘Generation Z’ aka Gen Z. He said though library reading is minimal, he and his team members mainly associate with the Status quo. They have watched Al Jazeera and BBC and browsed the Internet to update their knowledge on existing state of affairs in the social and political environments globally. They have done in-depth analysis on various subjects via social media.

“To be honest I prefer to read through my phone and visit websites to see updates on a constant basis. Yet there are boys who like to sit in the library and read. This time around I was in Kandy when the NMP finals took place and I watched the whole tournament via a video call. I was so happy to see the boys performing and winning that trophy”, said Muftee.

He said their target in this year is to qualify for the ‘Debaters Council Schools League’ aka DC League that functions under the Debaters Council of Sri Lanka which is the focal body for English debating. It has won the right to host the World Schools Debating Championship (WSDC) in 2019. WSDC is the global tournament for high school level debaters.

“We have to accumulate points through tournaments to qualify for the DC league. Right now after three tournaments we are in third position having Royal College and Ananda College in the lead. We are working hard to meet them in the finals”, Muftee added with an ambitious smile.


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