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The Big Idea: this December, Jack Watling FRSA and three colleagues will run Rwanda’s first Debate Camp, bringing together over 200 students for ten days of intensive training in analysing issues and policies, constructing and deconstructing arguments, and using rhetoric.

jack watlingAs a journalist I speak to a lot of people who care deeply about politics, society and community, but do not feel confident that they can articulate their views in public. As a result their views are not heard and their input is withheld from the decision making process.

Debating is an excellent tool for social empowerment, giving people the confidence to express themselves with concision, conviction and clarity. As a seasoned debater, I became a trainer at the Central London Debating Society (CLDS) to build a platform to encourage people to develop debating skills. CLDS organises public debates around London for over 1000 members and runs training programmes in schools and businesses.

Debating is an excellent tool for social empowerment, giving people the confidence to express themselves with concision, conviction and clarity.

This summer CLDS was approached and offered a unique opportunity: to send trainers to Rwanda and run the country’s first Debate Camp. The camp will empower a cohort of Rwandan students to become civically engaged and will open up a world of opportunities through international debating competitions and scholarships. It will also provide a framework for practicing and developing skills that will be essential for Rwanda’s future lawyers, civil servants and entrepreneurs as Rwanda aims to become a medium wealth country by 2020. At the end of the camp Rwanda will hold its first National Debating Championships. The competition will train staff in how to run and judge competitions so that they can prepare their students for international contests.

The legacy of the programme will be managed by the local charity IDebate Rwanda, who will assist the students attending the camp to set up and run competitive debating clubs in their schools and universities. Planning for the camp is well under way: the Rwandan Ministry of Education has already granted us use of Gashora Girls Academy, and accommodation and living expenses for students attending the camp will be funded by the Goethe-Institut/Liaison Office Kigali.

Rwandadebate camp

How you can get involved

We have not raised enough yet to avoid charging students attending the camp. This is why we need your help: if we can raise £2500 by December then attendance can be free, broadening the range of students who can attend. We would therefore be extremely grateful if you can spread the word about the camp, contribute to the project via our crowd-funding page, or attend our fundraising events throughout November. To raise awareness and funds for the camp we are partnering with the Rwandan Embassy in London and Parliament Week to host three panel debates on women in politics, Rwanda being the first country to have a female majority in its Parliament. The first event will be held on Tuesday 19 November, 7pm at the City of London School. We are hosting a panel discussion at Portcullis House on Thursday 21 November and Morgan Stanley is hosting the third on Thursday 28 November. We would really appreciate the assistance of Fellows who can help spread the word about the camp.

We would also be very grateful to sit down with any Fellows with experience working in Rwanda, especially people familiar with the Rwandan economy, in order to moot workshop example topics and exercise themes.  Please get in touch and we look forward to working with you to kick-start debating in Rwanda.

Jack Merlin Watling FRSA

07429 368 206


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