Tuesday, 6 November 2012

5th and 6th November – Debates in Khartoum

My volunteer colleagues from El Obeid, Tim and Christine, have come back to Khartoum to help their state’s debating team in the national championships.  I decided to tag along and watch.  The debates are funded by Petronas, a major petrol company in Sudan in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and are aimed at secondary age children.  I watched several teams compete before we broke for breakfast. 

During the break a woman came to introduce herself to me.  She told me her name is Sumayah and she is a teacher from Atbara in River Nile State, just across the river from Ed Damer.  When I told her that I taught in Ed Damer, she knew who I was at once.  Apparently the local Ministry of Education department had told her about me but not passed on contact details.  If I had been put in touch I would have been able to help train the team for the debate.  To make up for this, we agreed that I would come back to the student accommodation and do some last minute coaching. 
There are three students, two aged 16 and one aged 14.  They have been given three topics to debate on succeeding days.  Their first session was on Tuesday on the subject of corporal punishment.  They did very well indeed.  Afterwards many people came to congratulate them which I hope will give them a confidence boost for Wednesday and Thursday.  If they make the finals, they will be given more topics. 

Sumayah’s students are from a school in Atbara which has opportunities for English Conversation as an extra-curricular subject (exactly what we SVP volunteers are supposed to be promoting).  I am very glad to have made contact with her.
Sumayah and I have agreed to stay in contact once we have returned for the new term.  She has also offered to teach me Arabic.  Together with the new accommodation and having a fellow volunteer, I think the new term will be very different from my experience of Ed Damer so far.

Teenage fashion statement
I was amused when we went back to the student housing when the girls immediately changed out of uniform.  They had clearly pulled out all the stops for their trip to the big city and brought their most fashionable clothes, as imported from Saudi Arabia.  When they were told that they had to wear school uniform for the debates, there was an audible groan from all three of them!  At last I see something in common between Sudanese and UK teenagers.
Tomorrow is the last session I will be able to attend as I go back to Ed Damer on Thursday.

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