St. Ignatius students win debate double honors

From left, Giselle Ebanks, Viktoriya Bolgova and Justice Alex Henderson.

Young debaters from across the Cayman Islands went head to head testing their public speaking skills last month at a tournament that culminated in an exciting final held at the ARC hall at Camana Bay.

St. Ignatius students Giselle Ebanks and Viktoriya Bolgova emerged the winners of the Conyers Inter-Schools Debate Tournament with their performance at the final Exhibition Debate, held on Nov. 10, in their compelling final argument for the resolution: “Be it resolved that governments should ban extremist websites.”

According to a press release, the tournament brought together 14 high school student teams from Cayman Prep, Cayman International School, Clifton Hunter, John Gray High School, Cayman Brac’s Layman E. Scott High School and St. Ignatius, and for the first time, contestants from Grace Christian Academy.

With weeks to prepare their argument on the same topic used for the final, students took part in round robin debates that were hosted by eight senior student chairpersons, junior student runners and 28 judges from the community.

The second round saw students choose between two topics: “Professional sports are of no value in modern society,” or “Literature is essential to civilization.” With just 10 minutes to prepare, the debaters showcased their skills of persuasion and understanding of the subject matter.

Students and judges were then invited to attend the Exhibition Debate, hosted on stage in the ARC and attended by dignitaries including Governor Helen Kilpatrick, acting Chief Education Officer Lyneth Montieth, recently retired Justice Alex Henderson and MLA Winston Connolly.

According to the release, the St. Ignatius duo started first, and delivered a well-researched, balanced argument based on the link to mass acts of terrorism and visits to extremist websites.

“Obama had to respond to 14 mass shootings in the United States during his eight years of presidency; we cannot allow Donald Trump to do the same,” said Viktoriya, drawing on the U.S. presidential election the night before.

“Nobody is perfect, therefore there has to be limitations on the freedom of speech,” she argued.

“Mr. Chairman, we are not anarchists, thus we need rules on the safety and security of our people.”

The Clifton Hunter team countered that individuals must take ownership of their actions and not rely on handholding by government, which likely had more important matters to attend to.

In competition for individual honors, the top three individual speakers were within four points of each other. Viktoriya Bolgova of St. Ignatius was crowned best individual debater; fellow St. Ignatius student Finley McDougall came in second; and Alexander Cummer from CIS finished in third place.

“Education is a passion of mine. It is the great equalizer. Embrace the challenge. Embrace the time and energy it has taken you to be up on that stage,” said Mr. Connolly at the prize-giving.

Conyers Partner Fraser Hughes said that the firm was proud to sponsor the debate tournament for the third time.

“This evening’s debates showcased a high level of confidence and understanding of the subject matter, and the students delivered some persuasive arguments,” he said.

“The use of persuasion is integral to a number of career paths and Conyers is proud to support an event that offers a platform to exercise these skills.”

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