Convincing arguments by lead speaker Monifa Armstrong provided the perfect impetus for SWAHA Hindu College of Sangre Grande to emerge champions of the grand finals of the debating category of the 2012 bpTT Primary and Secondary Schools Environmental Debating Competition on Tuesday. Before an overflowing auditorium of teachers and students at the Mayaro Resource Centre, SWAHA’s presentation in the grand finals was described by chief judge Buddy Miller, a NIHERST consultant, as “excellent”. It was a double victory for SWAHA, also winner of the north zonal championship the previous week. Urged on by a surprisingly impartial audience, SWAHA College presented a convincing defence of the proposition: Be it resolved that in a time where the world faces rising costs of fuel and energy, as well as an increase in poverty, governments should encourage the cutting down of trees to foster the sustainable livelihoods of the rural poor and indigent.
SWAHA was represented by Monifa Armstrong, Devi Roodalsingh, Sherrifa Mohammed and Kavisha Koorban. They were coached by teacher Ambika Maharaj. SWAHA copped the title with 251 points, leading runners-up Cowen Hamilton (248 points) and last year’s champions, Coryal Secondary (246 points) which placed third. The five other schools that participated in the grand finals were Mayaro Secondary (240), North-Eastern College (233), Bates Memorial (228), Tableland Secondary (226) and Princes Town West Secondary (213). Leading off the debate against south zonal champions Mayaro Secondary, SAWHA’s Armstrong, who overcame early technical problems with the public address system, argued that the planned cutting down of trees, not deforestation, would definitely create diverse employment opportunities, resulting in sustainable livelihoods for the rural poor and indigent people. The judging panel comprised Buddy Miller, school teacher Janelle Dinoo and environmentalist Dane Phillip.
In his comments before announcing the results, judge Miller commended the schools on their effective use of multi-media presentations, although he noted, some of the visuals were not completely in sync with the oral presentations. He congratulated the organisers, teachers and students on the high standard of debating skills and techniques displayed in the debates. The debates (south zonal, north zonal and grand finals) represent one of three categories of the annual bpTT Primary and Secondary Schools Environment Awareness Competition. Essay writing and art/poster comprise the other elements. Now in its sixth year, the competition which caters for schools in the north-eastern and south-eastern regions, is fully sponsored by energy company BP Trinidad and Tobago and administered by the Black Deer Foundation, a Mayaro-based environmental group.