Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Bishop of Llandaff High School wins the Wales Schools Debating Championships 2012

Luis Corvini reports

When you think what a teenager could be doing in a common Monday evening, you may cogitate anything but talking politics. Wrong. That was what four students were doing last Monday in a high-level debate at the Schools National Debating Championship final.

The challenge, which happened at the Temple of Peace, in Cardiff, was established over one topic - coalition politics and if they were good or bad for Britain. For 45 minutes, the students expressed their reasons from being favourable or opposed to the idea of the cooperation process between different political parties.
At the face-off, the proposition team said the formation of a coalition government could make the country less democratic. The opposition declared that the organisation of a coalition-alliance helped Britain over difficult times, such as during World War II.
A board of five experienced adjudicators, including Wales Assembly Member Julie Morgan, analysed their performances. They were impressed by the high-standard discussion and the way the teenagers presented their arguments.
At the end, Cardiff’s Bishop of Llandaff High School students won the competition. Being part of the victorious team for the second time in a row, 16-year old Rhys Steele revealed his tactic: “Confidence is the main tip. You don’t have to know everything 100 percent, as long that you stay confident, a lot of people will believe it”, he says.

14-year old Ed Philips, Mr. Steele’s colleague in the competition, played a little joke about his debating experience: “I am one of four brothers, so in the house I have always to get your case”. He then said that he was very happy to have joined the debate group at his school.

The runners up Sam Costa, 15, and Amy Jones, 16, both students from Ysgol Ardudwy, from Harlech, North Wales, debated superbly and can proudly say that they reached the Grand Final having surpassed 53 other schools from around Wales.
For Martin Polland, chief executive of the Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA), which organised the event, debates like these help teenagers to learn important skills for their future: “They are developing not only the ability to speak, but also to listen actively, understanding and engaging with somebody else with a different opinion. They also develop knowledge about important political and social issues”, says Mr Polland.

Bill Burson, representing the British Council Wales, says that discussions like these promote ideals and make young people understand that there is always two sides of opinions in democratic processes and arguments.
The Wales Schools Debating Championships has existed since 1990. Earlier this year, Wales finished second in the World Schools Debating Championship in Cape Town, South Africa after beating England in the semi finals.
The 2013 World Championship is scheduled to happen in January and February, in Turkey and four young debaters have been selected to represent Wales.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Desmond Tutu brings Southern-African philosophy Ubuntu to Cardiff

Luis Corvini

It took less than an hour for the presence of Nobel Peace Prize winner archbishop Desmond Tutu, 81, to become an unforgettable moment for hundreds of people who have assembled at the Temple of Peace, in Cardiff, to talk about the Southern-African philosophy Ubuntu, on the 25th of October at an event organised by the WCIA and Life for African Mothers.

Mr. Tutu, a loyal propagator of the Ubuntu philosophy, demonstrated some of the basic principles of this way of living by the time he stepped out of the car.

First by opening a big smile to kids holding Wales and South Africa’s flags for his welcome, and after that when keeping his kindness during his meeting with the event participants.

“I am, because you are. (…) How I behave impacts not only on me, but also others around me because we all belong together.” Tutu’s words, found in his foundations’ website, could fit easily in this day.

A philosophy that held a country together

According to Tutu’s foundation, Ubuntu teaches to look beyond a person’s individuality. The Southern African philosophy emphasizes how to create better ways for people to get connected, to increase interdependence with each other and become better human beings.

Ubuntu held an important role during the post-apartheid period in South Africa, by holding together the country’s nation in the period of intense social turbulence.

“It is intangible, but visible”

Former nurse and charity-organization Life for Mother African Mothers founder Angela Gorman was the one chosen to explain Ubuntu philosophy at the group-discussion in Cardiff. She started her speech by giving her own example of life.

Ms Gorman discovered Ubuntu after watching a BBC Panorama program called ‘Dead Mums Don’t Cry’. The documentary showed the situation of women who were dying in Chad, Western Africa, by not having essential drugs to help them during their pregnancy period.

“If you stood and watched a woman dying, like I have, because she didn’t have fifty pence for medicines [in contrast of] we have so much here, it has to change you”, Ms Gorman said. That was the moment when she decided to create the non-governmental organization and raise funds for Chad’s pregnant women.

For participant Ephson Ngadya, 39, director of a Zimbabwean theatre company that was touring the UK, who knows the concept of Ubuntu almost by heart, the “create good-do good” idea is not a something to simply be transformed into a project, but is a brotherhood principle to be shared with everyone.

“[Ubuntu] is a lifestyle. It has all to do with our values, our beliefs. What is important for me is to mainstream Ubuntu in everything that we do. We are here to promote it amongst our children, amongst our community.

Good examples came from different parts of Wales. 16-year old students, David Silk and Rhiannon Phillips, came from Brecon to Cardiff not only to meet Tutu, but also to talk about their initiatives started in their town.

“[Ubuntu] is about communities coming together. If tomorrow these people go out and smile to someone at the street, if they talk to someone at the checkout queue, and if it makes difference to one person, it was worth it. We’re going to whatever we can insure to that this [Tutu’s] visit has a legacy”, said Ms Gorman.

Tutu’s words can summarize what gatherings like this one, means to society. “If this world is going to become a better place, is not going to happen because someone falls down from heaven, it’s going to happen because of [common] people, who want to make this a more gentle, more caring and more sharing world.”