MATCHING compelling arguments with consummate style, Vashisht Ramoutar and Joel Beckles of Naparima Boys' College won the second Annual Junior Achievement (JA) Leadership Debate Series at the Central Bank auditorium Monday.
Ramoutar and Beckles turned back a spirited challenge from their fellow finalists, Kayleigh Lewis and Raise-Ann Beckles of Scarborough Secondary School, who proposed the motion “Be it resolved that national borders and patriotic fervour serve to restrict rather than encourage the growth and development of a nation.”
The finale was chaired by Vice-President of the Senate Nigel de Freitas and witnessed by Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Shamfa Cudjoe. Among the audience were Zalayhar Hassanali, a long-standing patron of the JA movement, as well as JA deputy chairman Michael Callender and JA board members Nigel Scott and Sebastien Ventour.
“This is fantastic," said an ecstatic Ramoutar, lead debater for Naparima. "We were well-prepared but not over-confident. We took part in the competition last year and I think that the experience served us well. Our opponents gave us a good fight. Joel and I worked as a team to present our arguments. Our teachers guided us very well.”
The debate series is supported by the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business.
Judges were Dr Rose-Ann Walker, Merle Carrington, Dominic Smith, Keegan Bharath and Prof Ian Baptiste. Timekeeper was Elizabeth Calder.
Giving the judges’ assessment of the riveting and often witty offerings, Walker said both Naparima and Scarborough satisfied the main guidelines for judging – content, strategy and style. “Both teams had captivating introductions. Their arguments were true and relevant to the motion. We found that they were both well-researched and made good use of their points of information. Their strategy was well-structured throughout the presentations. The team that won demonstrated excellent cohesion which enabled both speakers to link their individual arguments superbly to reinforce their overall presentation.”
Leading off the debate, Scarborough’s Lewis argued that national borders limited the movement of migrants and restricted trade form one nation to another, thereby dampening the growth and development of nations. Her colleague Beckles contended that free flow of migrants would increase human capital for a nation and increase jobs, adding that patriotic fervour prevented nations from developing their full potential.
Opposing the motion, Naparima’s Ramoutar put forward that national borders, rather than restricting, in reality, encouraged growth and development of a nation. He drew the distinction between legal and illegal immigration, with the former resulting in positive action. National borders, he said, contributed to security and safety, collection of taxes and duties, which all aid in the growth and development of a nation. Beckles contended that patriotic fervour fuelled economic growth within a nation. He cited Carnival, one of the “most patriotic festivals” as a striking example, with the country earning some $335 million in 2017 from tourists during the season.
JA executive director J Errol Lewis congratulated schools for keeping the debate series alive, while acknowledging that corporate sponsorship was dwindling. He said TT was the only JA country within the international movement of some 130 countries which had a debating component among their various youth-building initiatives. “It is important for corporate citizens and the government to understand that if we want value from the next generation of leaders, you have to provide the right environment and train them in the correct way,” Lewis declared. He thanked members of the JA Board and staff for pulling out all stops to keep the debate series alive and relevant.
He made special mention of five schools which fielded two teams each, thereby affording a great number of students the opportunity to participate in one of JA’s signature initiatives. They are Naparima Boys' College, Presentation College (Chaguanas), Holy Faith Convent (Penal), NorthGate College and San Juan South Secondary.