Review by Kevin Baldeosingh
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Building confidence in young leaders
The confidence and the ability to present yourself, and your ideas, in the clearest and brightest light are attributes that last a lifetime.
This is the goal behind the RBC Young Leaders Debates and a vision that is slowly materialising across all spheres.
“Participating in this debate has given me a sense of confidence that I didn’t have before. It gave me a chance to experience things I would not have normally done by myself. In fact, it also showed me that public speaking is something that I can do and I think I actually have a knack for it,” says Vongai Mlambo.
The 15-year-old and her NorthGate College classmate, Raejeanne John, took home the 2012/2013 RBC Young Leaders Debates trophy for the theme entitled Be the Change last year and have since developed into A+ students, in addition to confident and well-articulated teenagers capable of standing their ground.
“I had a really rocky start in the competition because I was dealing with my nerves throughout the whole thing and while I have not really overcome it, I learnt to manage it and take control of the situation,” 16-year-old John said in a release from RBC Bank.
However the “dynamic duo,” as they have come to be known, admit that they relied on each other to help them achieve success.
“For me, it helped to believe in what I was saying. It didn’t matter how many people were in the room or in front of me, but I think throughout it all we supported each other. We worked night and day together practising and researching the topics and that helped,” Mlambo added.
Their teacher, Christopher Williams, said while the school essentially looks for diamonds in the rough when choosing participants, the girls have turned into pure gems.
“In the classroom, you see changes in the way all the students who participated perform, you see them putting in more effort to do better and just being more responsible to set an example for the other students. And in my opinion, I think this programme has really helped them by building their self-esteem and teaching them humility,” he said.
Alana Alexander, a Bishop Anstey High School teacher who has been involved with the debates for the past few years, said while it was difficult for her to say the extent to which the programme actually influences choices, she could say with certainty that it challenges her girls to examine alternative behaviours in ways they would not have usually done.
“Girls who are successful in the debates often get the attention of the rest of the student and teacher body, this certainly boosts their self-confidence and, as I suspect, contributes to the self-fulfilment prophesy dynamic where they then have to strive to fulfil the high expectations of them,” she added.
“Furthermore, aspects of their academic life, which may benefit the most, would be their skills in writing, reasoning and time management. They usually go on to participate in other debates taking advantage of their improved skills.”
Avalon Simon, a teacher at the Queen’s Royal College who has been a debate coach for the past five years, said for a long while they have been inculcating the oratory culture at their school because it raises confidence levels and encourages the boys to develop a proper train of thought.
“At QRC this is a culture. In fact we have our own debates taking place at the school in the form of clubs and we encourage it in the classroom,” she said.
The RBC Young Leaders debates began in 2002 to provide a forum for students to build and improve their public-speaking and critical thinking skills, the release added.
RBC has more than 30 years of investing in youth development, and according to the bank’s CEO, Suresh Sookoo, every programme is specifically designed to enhance civic engagement by strengthening their voice and empowering youths as agents of change to promote human development in their communities across the region.
“Young people have a lot to offer to sustainable development, and so far all our reports show that our RBC Young Leaders are not only better students, but are more disciplined and responsible because they gain self-respect, self-esteem, and self-confidence, all the attributes that make for great leaders,” he said.