Three pupils from the Leadership College took part in an international debating championship in Malaysia last month.
Bilqees Nero, who is pursuing Islamic studies full-time at the Manenberg-based institution, and Grade 12 pupils, Mohammed Ameer Whisgary and Raeez Ismail, left for Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday April 24 and returned on Thursday May 3.
Although the team did not win anything, Bilqees said they learnt many things at the competition.
Bilqees said her favourite subjects at school were always mathematics and English.
While the school doesn’t actually have a debating team, Bilqees and other pupils spend their break time debating about various worldly topics.
“My intention is to start a debating team at school this year. Although we didn’t receive anything, we learnt a lot. There were various topics including feminism. It was a bit challenging because their first language isn’t English and ours is but it was good and we enjoyed it. We were very excited and are grateful for the opportunity.”
She said what stood out was that the competition was run by the youth.
“We need to do more of that in this country empower our youth and let them be active,” she said.
The Mitchell’s Plain resident said her love for English developed as she is an avid writer and enjoys public speaking. Her passion for maths stems from her mother who is a maths teacher.
Bilqees is also a motivational speaker at various school and youth events.
Her mother, Moneba Nero, said she is extremely proud of her Bilqees
“For her to have been chosen for that level of competition is a step in a new direction that has opened many doors for her. With her intellect and hunger for knowledge she has grabbed this opportunity with both hands. We just wish her all the success for her future as the leader of tomorrow.”
Ameer said he started enjoying debating last year during their weekly class debates.
“Well, it’s more of a hobby if I had to describe it, but I discovered last year how fond I was of it during our weekly class debates, where the class would be split into two groups and elect three members to debate – each week different people must debate. Due to the trip I improved a lot on debating because in our first debate in the preliminary rounds none of us in my team spoke for even three minutes and we were supposed to speak for seven minutes each but at our last preliminary round I only noticed our improvement when we told the opposition that we didn’t have any prior experience and it left them in awe,” he said.
He said attending the competition was an amazing experience.
“I learnt so much, not only about debating, but about the schools and students. The competition was quite difficult but I like things that challenge me because you feel so much joy when you overcome it. I would definitely jump at the opportunity to do the competition again but unfortunately next year I’m not in school so I’ll just support those who go, if they do go, and give advice if needed. I am grateful to have had such an opportunity and I thank everyone who supported not only me but the others as well, it’s also because of them that I had such a blast.
Raeez said he gained experience and exposure through the trip that can be implemented at school.
“The trip was very exciting and new to me. It was my first time travelling overseas and on an aeroplane so I was very excited. I would’ve never thought that I would get the opportunity to travel at such a young age. There was a time when I thought that I wouldn’t be able to go because of financial problems but everything worked out as it should.
“Malaysia itself is a very nice place. The people we encountered were very friendly and humble. The first day of the competition we were very serious and nervous because we had no idea what to expect.
“We ended up losing most of our debates, but as it went on we learnt new things on how to debate and gained more experience because after each debate the judges told us how well we did and what we could’ve done better.
“After each debate our confidence rose and this is when we actually started to enjoy the competition. We managed to win 1 of our 5 debates despite the fact that we had no training or international experience or even local experience. I am very thankful for my parents for allowing me to go on this trip and grateful that the school gave me this opportunity to participate in an international competition and represent not only The leadership college but South Africa as a whole.”