The students, parents, teachers and other guests present at the debate finals were treated to outstanding performances from the four finalists with Mayaro Secondary facing off against Barrackpore West Secondary and Matura Secondary matching wits against North Eastern College.
The students of Mathura Secondary came in a close second with North Eastern College and Barrackpore Secondary rounding off third and fourth place respectively. The students were all happy with their performances and the camraderie was evident as they congratulated each other and even discussed their eagerness to participate next year.
In existence since 2006, the competition is endorsed by the Ministry of Education and is administered by Mayaro-based non-governmental organisation, The Black Deer Foundation, and sponsored since inception by energy company BP Trinidad and Tobago (BPTT).
BPTT’s Corporate Responsibility Manager, Ronda Francis, was proud of the competition’s focus on the environment and education: “Two of BPTT’s key focus areas are education and the environment and this competition melds those in a unique and interactive way. The debating component is especially significant because it does not follow the usual format of argument and rebuttal. Instead, it gives students the space to present their arguments utilising oral and technology-based mechanisms. The presentations made by each school require the application of key academic skills such as research, writing, presentation and communication, while at the same time encouraging students to exercise their creativity and self-expression in a safe yet challenging environment.”
“From the start of the competition to the conclusion, we have seen the students grow in terms of their capabilities, as well as their confidence. We are developing a cadre of environmental advocates who are aware of their role as custodians of the future and are prepared to accept the responsibility of preservation as well as community and nation-building,” Francis added.
The students argued the topic, “Be it resolved: Are the relevant authorities, namely the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) and the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA), sufficiently highlighting the effects of climate change? If not, what would you suggest?”
The judges had a tough time separating the finalists on criteria including topic development, diction, oral and visual presentation and clarity of messsage. Having presented their position on the topic with supreme confidence and precision, however, there was no doubt that Mayaro Secondary School had taken victory.
Form Four student, Kressel Pierre, could barely contain her excitement following Mayaro’s victory, “It feels so wonderful knowing that we were able to win. This really was an ultimate team effort including support from our teachers, parents, the Black Deer Foundation and BPTT. This was my first foray into debating and I realised that I liked it from the start. We got to know lots about the EMA and the IMA and gave us an overall appreciation of the environment. In addition to this, we also got valuable practice and exposure to school-based work. I am really inspired and fully intend to get all Grade Ones towards my dream career of being a biomedical engineer. I want to be a role model for younger students and also show them that this world is our responsibility and every future generation depends on what we do today.”
The competition currently engages students from the North and South Eastern Education districts, but there are plans for a national reach in future. In addition to the debating component which is secondary focused, students between the ages of seven and 18 participate in the essay writing as well as the art/cartoon categories.
As chief judge, Chris Metivier, School Supervisor I, Ministry of Education congratulated all the participating schools for their overall excellence. “We saw well-developed presentations with great research, pertinent information and dynamic speakers. Every school was able to maintain a high level of audience interest and participation, and other than indicating quality, that helps to spread the message of environmental conservation even further. It was really difficult for us to judge and I can say that is a great sign for the quality of minds that participated in this competition. BPTT really is investing the future of Trinidad and Tobago,” Metivier explained.
As Founder and President of The Black Deer Foundation, Arvolon Wilson Smith, spoke to the benefits of the competition: “The format of this debating competition was crafted to give schools the confidence to present their thoughts and ideas without inhibition. Each school presents and then the judges evaluate who did a better job – we removed the aspects of confrontation and fear of ridicule. As such, students gain confidence because they are allowed to improve as the competition progresses. From studies done, exam results demonstrate that all the primary and secondary students who participate in this competition tend to do better at exams. ”"This was my first foray into debating and I realised that I liked it from the start."