Do you remember that when you were in Junior High School and Senior High School you were probably part of a Debate Club?
And after school, you just fell out of it?
Some of us probably joined because you had to do at least one extracurricular activity just to add up to your academic work so we never really saw the importance of being in a Debate Club.
Well this team, Speech Forces, is here to break that status quo and bridge the gap between what the essence of joining a debate club and the benefits you actually get from joining a debate club. We had a chat with this amazing team…
Kuulpeeps: What is your role when it comes to debate in Ghana?
Speech Forces: Speech Forces is a registered youth organization that is focused on grooming tomorrow’s leaders and citizenry, using the tools of expression and critical thinking. We target secondary schools, youth groups and individuals with the need for oratory skills and critical thinking. Speech Forces is a household name in the West African debating community. Since 2014, we have been providing standard training and competitions in the sub-region for high school and university debaters.
Kuulpeeps: What inspired you to start a national debate competition?
Speech Forces: Speech Forces was inspired by the gap in our educational system for critical thinking and oratory skills. We strongly believe in teaching how to think rather than focusing on grooming students on what to think.
Kuulpeeps: How has the interest been so far?
Speech Forces: The interest has been encouraging so far. Students and young people in general, are curious and love to explore. A debating platform gives them the platform with a sense of direction. We wish parents and teachers would encourage more of this in the future.
Kuulpeeps: What is the focus/main aim of starting this initiative?
Speech Forces: The Ghana National Debate Team initiative was started to encourage a culture of critical thinking amongst high school students in the country. There is a huge emphasis on grades in our curriculum which mostly text how well a student can memorise complex concepts. This disincentivises students in making efforts to understand and apply their knowledge in challenging and unfamiliar circumstances. Promoting a culture that embraces and celebrates critical thinking will go a long way in equipping the upcoming generations to become active problem solvers in all sectors of society.
Kuulpeeps: What are some of the challenges your organization and the team are facing?
Speech Forces: Extra-curricula activities which are essential in grooming well-rounded members of Society are poorly supported in Ghana. Funding is difficult to come by and our education system sees most of these as distractions that need little to no attention.
The other major challenge is the misconception we have about debating. The sport is widely noted in the country for the development of eloquence and fluency in the English Language. These are all good traits to be excited about but the main skills like critical thinking, research, strategy and logical reasoning receive very little focus and development. This is reflective in how English teachers facilitate and judge the Independence debate competition in our schools. It becomes difficult to appreciate the wholesome benefits and skills development associated with it.
Kuulpeeps: What are some of the milestones you have achieved?
Speech Forces: There has been a couple of them in this short period.
- The organization has run training sessions for a number of schools since 2014. Presec Legon, Labone SHS, Datus International School, Galaxy International School, Aburi Girls, to mention a few.
- We introduce the world school debating style and hosted the first debate competition based on the format last year at the Mangana Invitational Debates with support from LUCAS College
- We hosted and trained the Nigeria National Debating Team for a week in Accra in 2016 in their preparation for World Schools Debate Championship in that year.
- We partnered University of Lagos Debate Society to organize the maiden edition of the National Schools Debate Championship using the British Parliamentary style.
- Our annual open debate competitions like Acca Open, The Genesis Open and the Easters attracts debaters from the major universities in West Africa. In the past, debaters from University of Ghana, University of Ilorin, KNUST, University of Calabar, University of Lagos, FUTA, MOUAU, Afe Babalola University, Zenith University, University of The Gambia, University of Cape Coast, GIMPA, Islamic University College, Imo State University etc. have all taken part in our 3-5 days residential competitions. Accra Open in its 4th edition this year is the first open debate competition in West Africa.
Kuulpeeps: What are some of the benefits to the debaters themselves?
Speech Forces: The benefits of debating are numerous. The core of them for debaters are:
- Acquisition of relevant knowledge outside a student’s academic subjects
- Building confidence
- Research skills
- Ability to comprehend issues and articulate thoughts
- Improve teamwork and tolerance of ideas
- Encouraging better decision making through thorough appreciation of issues
- Exposure to the real world.
- Building leadership qualities
- Team Members and Selection Procedure
A two-day trial session was held at the University of Ghana to select a 10 member team for the maiden Ghana National Team. Debaters across the country applied online to be invited for the trials at the end of last year. At the end of the trials, students from DATUS School complex, Presec Legon, Galaxy International School, Labone SHS, Presec Osu and Accra Girls SHS made the maiden team. The team have our training sessions every Saturday at Impact Hub Accra. Impact Hub Accra is our venue partner. The Africa Regional Lead of Impact Hub, Ms Emily Sheldon is the team’s mentor and advisor. Emily went to college on a debating scholarship in the United States and she’s interested in developing a debating culture in Ghana.
It will be the first time the team would be participating in the world’s most prestigious high schools debate championship and we expect them to learn a lot from it. After the competition, the team will share their experiences with a number of schools in the country and help cultivate the habit of reading, thinking and speaking amongst their peers.
Kuulpeeps: In what ways can people support the team?
Speech Forces: The Ghana Debate Team is preparing to participate, for the very first time, in the 30th World Schools Debate Championship in Croatia this July. We call on well-meaning Ghanaians and corporate Ghana to assist the team in covering the costs of registration and flight. Support in kitting the team is highly welcome as well.
You can send your donations to:
Bank Name: GN Bank
Account Name: Speech Forces Organization
Account Number: 1036111000037
Branch Name: Miotso
REF: Ghana National Debate Team
Or donate online by clicking the link below:
Call +233547212562 & +233246608180 to discuss how you can support the team