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Accidental champions

Schools

For Rostrevor College student Garang Kuach, his debating career began as a way of avoiding lunch-time detention.

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A few months later he was standing in South Australia’s Parliament House delivering the opening argument for the college’s senior debating team in the grand final of the Debating SA Schools’ Competition.

Garang and teammates Christy Saji and Liam D’Silva went on to become the champions of the prestigious competition.

Unsure what to select for his compulsory after-school College activity, Garang, who is of Sudanese descent, was given the option of an after-school activity instead of detention and opted for debating.

Facing the challenging task of arguing in the affirmative that ‘Boris is best for Brexit’ against St Peter’s Girls’, the trio achieved an emphatic win, earning a 5-0 unanimous decision from the judges.

“Who knew just one email and a few threats could get me to accidentally join the debate team?” Garang said.

“You don’t have to be the smartest person to debate,” he said. “Yeah, it helps but it is not a necessity and I am living proof of that!”

The team came from relative obscurity, sitting eighth on the ladder and only narrowly making the finals, but a gritty win against a very strong Pulteney Grammar team and a convincing win against Adelaide High School in the finals series secured their place in the home of debate – State Parliament’s House of Assembly.

Team member Christy, who has competed in debating since Year 5, said the trio worked frantically for the week trying to absorb all they could about Brexit and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson even as news was breaking about a possible Brexit deal on the day of the debate.

“We were looking at the news and things kept changing, so we were still writing our rebuttals on the day,” Christy said.

A total of 272 teams from 64 schools took part in the Debating SA Schools’ Competition, including 25 in the senior debating fixture. Under the guidance of teachers Kerry and Tom Hodkinson, the Rostrevor senior debating team had made the grand final on three previous occasions but had been denied the title until now.

“This win is big for our confidence and self-esteem, especially going into Year 12 and knowing we can handle ourselves as public speakers,” Christy said.

Garang encouraged anyone wanting to develop their public speaking skills and confidence to give debating a try.

“We started out as three young lads meeting up in a room, trying to work out the responsibilities of each speaker and ended as grand finalists and talented debaters who could skilfully express their thoughts and ideas on any stage,” he said.

“I encourage all young people to forge their own profound pathways as the next generation of hard-core wordsmiths and belligerent rebuttalists.”

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