By Mthabisi Tshuma

The Cyrene High School debate club has broken Matabeleland region’s nine-year barren streak after being crowned this year’s National Association of School Heads (NASH) debate champions in the seniors category.

Cyrene High School students and their coaches from left, coach Patrick Gatsheni Ndlovu, students Tirivashe Mataya, Nathaniel Moyo, Menelisi Nyoni, Ntandoyenkosi Mahonde and coach Zinhle Chinembiri pose for a photo with their trophy after they emerged the 2019 National Interschools’ Debate Champions. (Picture by Nkosizile Ndlovu)
Cyrene High School students and their coaches from left, coach Patrick Gatsheni Ndlovu, students Tirivashe Mataya, Nathaniel Moyo, Menelisi Nyoni, Ntandoyenkosi Mahonde and coach Zinhle Chinembiri pose for a photo with their trophy after they emerged the 2019 National Interschools’ Debate Champions. (Picture by Nkosizile Ndlovu)

The competition, which was put on halt last year after an outbreak of cholera in Harare, was eventually held in Mutare earlier this month. The four-member Cyrene group comprising of Tirivashe Mataya, Ntandoyenkosi Mahonde, Nathaniel Moyo and Menelisi Nyoni shrugged off competition from 10 other schools.

Bulawayo’s St Columba’s High settled for second position while Kriste Mambo High took third position. Other schools that participated were hosts Mutare Boys High, St Faith’s Secondary, Mazowe High, Ellis Robins High, Kriste Mambo High, Chaplin High, Silveria High and St Dominics High while George Silundika High failed to field participants.

The motions for this year were abstract and somewhat more difficult, giving all teams a debating plain field. The final round impromptu motions were:

“This house believes that housewives should be paid for their duties” and “This house believes that Greece should default its debt and go back to the Drachma.” The groups were given 10 minutes to caucus and argue on the topic given.

With an exceptional intellectual verbal skirmish, Cyrene earned themselves an entry ticket to the Orate-Africa debate competitions in Namibia where they will represent the country in December.

The Figtree school’s debate club coaches, Patrick Ndlovu and Zinhle Chinembiri, said they were elated to have won the competition. They said they are now in dire need of funds for the team to participate in the continental competition.

“Considering the current economic situation in the country, we might not participate in the Orate Africa competition as we don’t have funds. As such, we’re appealing to sponsors to come on board and fund the group so they represent the country.

“As a school which is located in the rural areas, the way the boys performed in the final impromptu competition shows how talented they are, thus they need our full support,” said Chinembiri. Regarded as a niche of Matabeleland South, the group said they owed their success to the school’s heads.

“We worked as a team to achieve this and we appreciate the work from the whole debate club, the Deputy head Mrs Dube and the head Mr Bhebhe for supporting us from the onset. Debate has turned from being an extra-curricular activity in our school to being a culture,” said Ntandoyenkosi Mahonde who emerged as the national competition’s second best speaker. As the reigning champions, we’re eager to penetrate the international ground and do our country proud,” added Mahonde.

To show how good the Cyrene team is, its senior team almost landed the trophy at the last edition as they came second.

More than a mere verbal or performance skill, debate embodies the ideals of reasoned argument, tolerance for divergent points of view and rigorous self-examination.

It is, above all, a way for those who hold opposing views to discuss controversial issues without descending to insults.

A key trademark of debate is that it rarely ends in agreement, but rather allows for a robust analysis of the question at hand. The Chronicle