Debate as a concept is as old as humanity, modern debate however is said to have been at its peak in the late 18th century in what scholars termed as the age of enlightenment. In Uganda, each one of us can trace encounters of debate from our lower education levels all through the education system to university.
One Pulser that will perhaps cherish debate forever is Jordan Tumwesigye, a young lawyer in Kampala. Having been a passionate debater all through his childhood, Tumwesigye was to finally see his eloquence and passion pay off in 2010 when he was announced as the Best Speaker in the 2010 National School’s Debate championship.
Then a younger chap in S.3 from Mbarara High School, Tumwesigye rather unsuccessfully (for his team) argued that Parliament needed more youth representatives because the special interest group constituted over 60% of the population. The show off was at the National Debate Championship final where his school was facing King’s College Budo for the national crown under the motion, “Is there need for more Youth MPs?”
Like I love to say, Tumwesigye lost the battle but won the war. And from then he has never looked back. He was to later join Makerere University for a Bachelor of Law degree and later complete his bar course at the Law Development Centre (LDC).
Almost an accomplished Advocate now, his love for debate has never withered. It is in fact what prompted him and colleagues to form Debate Society Uganda (DSU) which is majorly a youth based organisation committed to improving Debate culture in Uganda.
“Our journey to form Debate Society Uganda started with informal meetings we held with a group of people we called debate alumni. These were people who had debated while in secondary school and had now crossed over to the university.” Tumwesigye told MTN Pulse in an interview.
According to him, the group wanted to contribute more to debate by veering away from insistence on technical details to instead build critical thinking and focus mainly on a values based system where thorough argumentation would be the core focus.
“All of us wanted to contribute to a better debate culture. We felt that debate had to go beyond handing accolades to the winning schools and students, it had to be an experience. Most of us remembered how the debate experiences we had in secondary school shaped the people we were becoming.” He added.
Barely two years old, the group has partly actualized their dream. They secured a number of partners who share in their vision and last year, they organised their first ever Uganda Schools Debate Championship (USDC) after the regional championships all across the country.
Tumwesigye acknowledges that they face hindrances but the biggest challenge is the mentality among sections of the public that they seek to compete with already established debate entities and organizations which according to him is very far away from the truth. He says it is because of that thinking that many people have misunderstood what they want to do with debate.
“We have made it very clear that Uganda is already too big for the few organisations and yet the work to be done is huge. Our future plans are hinged around improving the debate culture in the country and with our team of dedicated volunteers, we hope to establish a debate centres of excellence across the country. We also hope that we can be able to develop feasible strategies to enhance debate through bench marking from our global debate partners.” Tumwesigye concluded.