QatarDebate’s 2nd International Schools Arabic Debating Championship brings together students from around the world in a cultural exchange. By Dana Abu Nahl and Nelly Al Fayed, Communication juniors at Northwestern University in Qatar.
In a world of continual and mostly silent social media interaction, being able to make your real voice heard is becoming a lost art. Yet it remains an important skill, particularly for young people who might not yet have learned how to put their arguments across clearly. Student debates are designed to remedy this situation, helping students to develop their public speaking skills.
Twenty-two teams from schools around the world had a chance to demonstrate and develop their debating talents in the Arabic language at QatarDebate’s Second International Schools Arabic Debating Championship, held under the patronage of Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, Vice Chairperson, Qatar Foundation, from 23 to 26 March 2014.
QatarDebate uses the competition to motivate students throughout the Arab region to practice critical thinking while simultaneously developing their Arabic language skills.
By having the participants debate topical issues, the championship also creates a stronger link between the students’ education and real-world inter-cultural affairs. Young people voiced their opinions about issues of the day in an open environment, revealing their talents and capabilities while also demonstrating a sense of control and maturity. Debate, after all, involves listening openly and often accepting the opinions of others.
The championship introduced the students to a culture of constructive dialogue and a diversity of opinions. Through the event, QatarDebate succeeded in promoting awareness of the value of debating in helping to build a brighter future for generations to come, while preserving the Arabic language, culture, and identity.
Announcing the second edition of the championship, Dr Hayat Abdullah Maarafi, Executive Director, QatarDebate, said: “I assure you that our focus at QatarDebate is primarily the provision of care for and interest in Arab youth. They represent our hope of a bright future that meets people’s aspirations for a decent life based on justice, equality, and free debate, which is encouraged within them through the art of debate and dialogue. Doha embraces the doves of peace in its skies regardless of the differences in colors, flags, and languages.”
Preparations for the championship started in November 2013 when QatarDebate welcomed 24 participants from 19 Arab countries and five non-Arabic-speaking nations to its sixth academy, an event to train the debate coaches who would be preparing the students for the championship.
“The International Schools Arabic Debating Championship falls within the framework of our efforts to spread this art and raise awareness amongst youth of its importance in preparing future generations and shaping future leaders based on the foundations of the authentic Arabic language, which serves our language, culture and identity,” said Dr Maarafi.
This edition of the championship saw the participation of 22 teams, including Malaysia, Turkey, Singapore, and the US. Jamal Al Baker, Event Manager at QatarDebate, said: “QatarDebate was keen to communicate with all Arab countries ahead of the championship in order to secure participation. QatarDebate is also keen on extending bridges of communication with all countries and strengthening co-operation in the fields of science, education, and culture with different educational institutions in Arab and other countries.” He added that such tournaments enable QatarDebate to share its unique expertise in spreading the culture of debate in Arabic.
On the first day of the championship, the debating teams attended an opening ceremony and took part in a mock debate in preparation for the first round of the competition. Each subsequent round of debates saw teams eliminated until two were left to contest the Grand Final: Turkey and Yemen. All the contestants who took part in the contest were enthusiastic about the experience. Waleed Al Hindi, a member of the Qatari team, said: “This is a very exciting competition. Some teams are stronger than others, but the competitive standards remain high.”
Faizeh Abdelrazeq, Head of Arabic Program at QatarDebate, said the debating topics for the championship were intended to be diverse and inclusive, to cover multiple areas and deal with contemporary issues of common interest, as well as being related to Arab societies. During the opening ceremony, she said: “Debate is the art of language. Its aims teach us to understand and accept others. It breaks boundaries and allows us to grow. Let us master the hidden traits of this art.” Manal Areant, a member of the Palestinian debating team, echoed this sentiment. “Debate is an art. It helps build a stronger personality. You learn to defend the causes you are passionate about,” she said.
For many, taking part in the event demonstrated Qatar Foundation’s (QF’s) commitment to young people. Fadwa Yousif, Sudanese Team Debate Coach, said: “QF exceeds all of our expectations. It hosts great programs such as this that prepare students from a young age, on an international level, to become future leaders. We are extremely honored to take part.”
Alongside the competition, QatarDebate launched its third book, Introduction to the Art of Debating, written by Dr Abdellatif Salami, Educational Program Manager, QatarDebate. The book focuses on debating mechanisms that address rhetoric, and targets those who seek to master the art of debate and dialogue.
In addition, Abdulrahman Al Subaie, Marketing Coordinator at QatarDebate, unveiled a Twitter social media competition, sponsored by iSpot and set up using a league system, with winners depending on the number of points they receive. Young people from around the world were encouraged to participate and make their voices heard, albeit their virtual ones.
Finally, Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani took the stage to announce and honor the winners. The Turkish team was champions, with the team from Yemen finishing runners-up. The Qatari national team took fourth place after a third-fourth play-off with the Jordanian team.
Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani described the competition as having “served as nourishment that provided us with practical and educational experiences”, adding that the Arabic language is the base of knowledge and a necessity for learning, and is able to accommodate modernity and changes at a global level. “The Arabic language will not rise alone, but rises with those who speak it. We ask of you to join hands to build a present that is better than our past, and a future better than our present, to reach a prestigious status where we’re proud of our identity and heritage.” – See more