Doing their school proud

By Yashasvi Kannagara

The thirteenth annual Dr. Mahbub ul Haq Memorial Inter-School Debate Competition organized and supported by UNDP in collaboration with the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, was held in New Delhi last month. Students from all 6 SAARC countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka participated in the final round of the debate.

This years’ topic; “In South Asia, high growth rates alone will not ensure elimination of inequality” was debated by student representatives of the SAARC countries. Meghal Perera and Manisha Dissanayake, student of Ladies’ College, Colombo 7 represented the country at the SAARC round and became the proud winners of the title.

Meghal Perera and Manisha Dissanayake. Pictures by Saman Kariyawasam

The principle of Ladies’ College Ms. Nirmali Wickremesinghe, herself a debater and the captain of the school’s debating team during her time at Ladies’ College was thrilled at the success of the girls not only for their victory but also for their skill and commitment as debaters. “Debating is an art that everyone should cultivate.

An important skill that helps you understand both sides of the same argument, to perceive another person’s point of view. In life too we must understand others. Debating develops your mind in terms of logical thinking. It is not the trophy that is important. It is the skill of these students that make them stand out.”

Meghal and Manisha were thrilled with the victory they achieved for their school. They attributed the win to the school’s focus on team endeavors and their capability to work together as a team.

The Indian experience while opening their eyes further to the pressing issues that rose with the topic of discussion also made a fun experience. The students from all six countries toured the city of Delhi together.

They were fortunate enough to meet Sonia Gandhi. While experiencing various aspects of Indian culture, including “lots of food and shopping”, they were also exposed to the more pressing social issues of the country.

When asked about the encounter with the participants of different nationalities Manisha said that it was an eye opener for them. “We had an up close view of the Asian youth. We were all young and current so opinions of conservative culture, differences in language and issues faced by us as children in different countries came up. Even things like what kind of music we like were discussed. More than the differences there are a lot of similarities between us.”

The debated subject, was a very appropriate subject in terms of contemporary relevance while being a growing concern that must be addressed said Meghal. “It was a relevant topic and something that we were all involved in. It was not limited in that sense. We learnt a lot while discussing the issue and studying it. The debate was an enriching experience.”

Sarani Jayawardena the present debating captain of Ladies’ College spoke to us about the guidance and support received by the debating society of the school from the academic staff and other professionals. “Our coach Shamali Jayatunge taught us so much in terms of technique.

She is a huge part of this victory. Ms. Vyvette Uyangoda, the teacher in charge, is very supportive. She always motivates us to go further. Our principal, Ms. Nirmali Wickremesinghe is the one who taught is that winning isn’t everything. That it is what we learn in the process that matters.”

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