IT was verbal warfare, with team members on both sides demonstrating their ability to spar with words.
What a close battle it was between SMK Assunta and SMJK Kwang Hua, which pitted their wits against each other for the coveted challenge trophy in Taylor’s College’s 10th debate annual competition which ended on April 16.
A total of 22 schools took part in the competition, which kicked off on March 5.
Affirming the motion “Man is his own enemy”, Yap Vin Li, 17, Dhivia Dharshini Bhaskaran, 17, and Anisha Vinayak Pradhan, 16, of SMK Assunta in Petaling Jaya, Selangor impressed the judges with their oratorical skills and intelligence and emerged the winners.
“To make sure I spoke clearly, Dhivia kept tugging at my skirt, signalling me to slow down and get to the point,” Anisha said later at a press conference.
Each member of the winning team received a certificate, a trophy, and a full scholarship to any one of the pre-university programmes offered at Taylor’s College. They were also awarded the Challenge Trophy and an LCD projector worth RM9,000 for their school.
The second prize winners received partial scholarships in the form of a 50% waiver on their pre-university tuition fees, a 3M portable overhead projector for their school, certificates and a trophy.
Anisha, who was named Best Speaker, also received a book prize and a certificate.
English Speaking Union chairman Tunku Dara Tunku Tan Sri Naquiah Tuanku Jaafar presented the awards to the winners.
“I am very impressed with the high quality of debaters from the schools and the final decision was very, very difficult,” said chief adjudicator Prof Dr Elaine Morais before announcing the winning team.
The competition was a good learning experience, said Anisha. “There was a marked improvement in the standard of English used, elocution skills, and the ability to persuade and convince,” she added.
The Assunta girls would prepare their arguments at the school’s vestibule and often stayed over at each other’s homes to brainstorm for points.
“We would come up with our own points and constantly argue them out,” added Dharshini.
School principal Lim Sew Kwe encouraged the students to give their best for the competition. “Winning this gets you a full scholarship so why not go all out for it?” she told them.
Asked how the girls were selected, teacher advisor Sailaja Ramachandran said: “I spotted their talents after hearing them speak at class debates and other school tournaments, so I roped them in.”
The Assunta trio are no strangers to the world of debate. They were finalists in the SEA Forensics Tournament debate category organised by the International School of Kuala Lumpur and state champions of the Wira Debate this year.
“Participating in more competitions really help you polish up your debating skills. You also learn more techniques as you go on,” said Anisha.
She added that a good debater has the ability to adapt to different situations and handle topics skilfully and eloquently.
“Instead of picking on examples and over-analysing the motion, one should focus on presenting a logical and well-organised argument. It doesn't matter if you stumble,” she said.
On how they developed a passion for debating, all three said they come from families of lawyers and debaters.
“It has always been the norm to talk openly about current issues with my parents although they didn’t directly influence me to take an interest in debating,” said Anisha whose ambition is to be an astronaut.
Asked how they would celebrate the victory, Vin Li said their only focus should be on studying for upcoming exams on May 7.
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