In a school like St. Joseph's S.S.S. Naggalama that treasures holistic formation, debating competitions - internal or external - aren't a rare thing. Therefore, the national debating challenge is a competition to always look forward to every year. The challenge commands participation of several elite schools across the country. Our school had taken part in these competitions for several years and had won the coveted trophy in 2016. It had been runners up for a number of times as well.
At the backdrop of such a legacy it was therefore quite interesting and equally challenging to be the ones to take over from some of the best debaters that the debating club had brought forth; debaters who had gone on to represent their respective universities at international inter-university debating competitions. Nevertheless our team took it upon ourselves to further on this legacy.
One can say we were nurtured and prepared by our predecessors, but the reality is the stage can be big, the occasion great. So much so that when the competitions started, the beginning was tough and offered lessons the hard way. It was tricky juggling the club activities and the busy school program since every second of the day is planned, but I guess that is a preview of what life in general is: there is never enough time.
After winning the first encounter against Namilyango College, we must have thought it would be plain sailing. Reality set in when lost our next debating challenge against Mengo S.S. Our preparation had not been thorough. With unclear information and questionable statistics we lost our argument to the negators of the day. To say that this was a rude awakening is an understatement. There was regret, resentment, guilt, criticism and general depression for making the worst mistakes that we were all aware of. 'Do smooth seas make skillful sailors?' rhetorically asked Mr. Kamulya Grace and Mr. Balidawa Henry, our teachers. We knew we had to steady the ship.
That loss was a turning point and like the classical bird, the phoenix, we rose from the ashes and became stronger, crushing each of our opponents and being careful not to tread the path that angels feared. We rose through the next debates and qualified for the semifinals at the International University of East Africa.
With great anticipation, we journeyed to the International University of East Africa on 3rd October 2022, with a glint in our eyes for our opponents. Our only objective was victory.
For this round, there was an auditorium for the audience and schools all over the country were represented. At this stage there was a twist. The resolutions for those particular debates were given on that day and soon was crunch time to brainstorm and quickly formulate strategies in less than an hour. I thought I had lived the definition of pressure, but that was an altogether a different level of pressure. When the moment came, after a heartfelt prayer, we were off to the stage for the semi-finals against Kibuli S.S. At the semi-final stage the margin for error is small. We kept the errors few and the merits many. Our opponents, according to the judges, had not kept the errors as few as we did. Into the finals we went.
Here was the real tension. At any minute, something could go wrong. We were up against a good team, but we were very confident of our abilities. Has there been a more heated debate? Each side constantly wanted to point out the inconsistencies and contradictions in the other side's arguments and enthusiastically project theirs argument as better.
I believe we did well that day. The verdict time was the longest I have ever waited for anything in my life. It took speeches, dance performances, messages from our sponsors and a power outage to finally get the results. The debating teams stood together for the final announcement at the platform before the officials from sponsoring bodies: Uganda Wildlife Authority, National Drug Authority and the organizers Quiz Malie Productions. The audience was on tenterhooks. One could hear a pin drop. Silence.
It was announced that the opposing school was the first runner up and it took me about thirty seconds to realize that that meant we were the victors. Up until this day that joy is simply unmatched. My teammates: Angeo Racheal, Naigaga Freda Sandra and Kitara Powel Lukara were jumping for joy and one of them even bathed in tears. Tears of joy. Elation. It was the victory we had all been waiting for, victory we had worked for and finally there it was. The trophy was lifted amidst celebration. It was a beautiful experience and one we will treasure for as long as we can remember. Debating is an enriching and rewarding activity. The research, teamwork and communication skills it develops are tools that I believe can be used to unlock many gates. The topics like health, wildlife and agricultural modernization that we debated about also offered such knowledge as we had never known.
We thank our teachers and the school administration for the immeasurable support extended to us. Ultimately we thank God for His Grace.
There is another competition this year and by God's Grace again we shall use it to learn even more.
The Debate Club President
St. Joseph Naggalama
Ashaba Anita Aryabaha