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Debating at BEAM

The week that started off on Monday with frustration, anger, annoyance: I discovered I had a water snake in my fish pond, so now I knew where the fish were disappearing, this was, “meals on or in water” rather than “meals on wheels”. My anger was that recently purchased fish were no more than a meal to satisfy my unwelcomed visitor.

The project of emptying the pond and cleaning began with even more interesting discoveries; I did not have one but three snakes. I was only able to relocate one with the other two snakes not so keen on being relocated, jumped out of the net and took their chances in my complex. I am not a fan of snakes but also realize life cannot be that great, no voice, legs or arms and a predetermined attitude by your foe.

In my frustration as a snake catcher I headed to BEAM to join and share with BEAM students on their quest to hold a debate on the impending Friday with the topic “Smoking Should Be Banned" Roger and Bob had supported and guided the students prior to my session, so their preparation was in the right direction and with a little interaction the students were prepared for their first debate.

When Friday came, I was still vexed about the snakes, and their menu choice. Roger and I sat at the back of the class as observers, with a fantastic turn out of 95%, though there was another noticeable fact, the importance these students attached to this event in their stunning dressed code telling all that this was serious event and day in their life.

Bob officiated the debate, outlying the rules of engagement; the classroom was filled with tense apprehension, excitement, nervousness and curiosity.

As each team presented their, case, answered questions, rebuttals, their fire and energy grew, the students changed right in front of our eyes, their passion, beliefs, concern were taking over, their confidence grew, faces reflected youth and in their passions I could see their belief in themselves as individuals, and as teams growing. They were interacting as a group, as teams with a purpose, it meant something, their voices being heard!

Listening, watching the process of the debate, Roger, Bob and myself were truly amazed how these students had taken on the challenge. Shyness, lack of experience, self-consciousness were overcome; they learnt the respect of having and giving tolerance. A few weeks ago, their understanding, knowledge of a debate let alone having one of their own was totally foreign, never mind in a language that is not their mother tongue. This was the first of many debates planned over the coming months.

So, a week that started off with slippery customers frustration ended upon a high for me I was walking on air, to witness these students develop and grow in stature, life is exciting.

You may well wonder what these stories have in common, the unidentifiable, trepidation the element of surprise, conquering a challenge, the reward, satisfaction in the face of adversity. For the writer the conclusion of everyone’s achievement was sheer joy, to be shared, with the frustration of the snakes in their quest for a fishy meal forgotten. They, too, had achieved a goal and I had gotten over my fear of handling them.


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