Lionel Depute and Leroy Dzenga Features Writers
In a world where communication is increasingly becoming important in opening up opportunities, there is need to refocus and give priority to extra-curricular activities like debate, speeches as well as public speaking.
The pressure has been on pupils to master their class work and examinations leading to the neglect of these other important aspects of life.
Exceptional schools among the many boasting high pass rates are maintaining the culture and focus on extra-curricular activities.
Recently Goromonzi High School held a debate competition where schools converged to sharpen each other in intellectual deliberations.
The intention was to prepare the pupils for a future where ideas are as important as how they are presented.
Speaking in an interview after a debate event at their school, Goromonzi deputy headmaster Elack Mapuranga said his school was leading in debate and it has benefited.
“We have been leading, and looking from the previous national debates, Goromonzi has won some and has been the first runner up and today we have witnessed another win,” he said.
Mapuranga emphasised the need to involve children of school going age in pertinent debates.
“Our pupils have been exposed to various topics and this prepares them for the future as they are the leaders of tomorrow,” he said.
He said these extra-curricular activities bettered the pupils’ public speaking skills.
“Our students’ public speaking skills are improving since we started holding these debates. As you have seen Goromonzi had the best senior speaker and this shows that they are now aware of what is needed,” said Mapuranga.
The same view was expressed by Goromonzi debate association president Nathan Kanhukamwe (Lower Six) who said debate had elevated their school and boosted their confidence.
“Debate has really improved our confidence as a team as commended by the adjudicators. We have managed to put our school on the map through debate by participating in various debate competitions,” he said.
Sometimes pupils may fail to travel through normal academic activities but the Goromonzi debate has represented Zimbabwe at the world schools debate in the United States of America.
This allowed participants a chance to connect with the diverse cultures in the world.
“We appreciate the Goromonzi High administration for funding debate competitions as it has benefited us academically,” he said.
Extra-curriculum activities of a discursive nature allow pupils to confront topical issues around the globe.
This grooms them for robust debate and engaging conversations in real life situations.
“Debate exposes us to different topical issues both regionally and globally. For example, we have covered technology and Sadc related topics which help open our eyes to what happens in the continent and around the world,” Mapuranga said.
He said they also helped them to take part in environmental awareness on issues especially those to do with climate change.
“They also help us participate in environmental projects such as going green and climate change issues,” he said.
While debate and public speaking are considered less important, some have etched careers from these.
Noreen Chenesai Mukora-Mangoma, a lawyer and life coach, says her interaction with public speaking informed her career choice.
“As part of the public speaking club in high school, I was always exposed to current affairs.
I knew from that exposure that I wanted to pursue a career in political science,” she said.
Although she ended up studying for a law degree, she did not lose her desire to expand her knowledge base on the continent.
“I wanted to pursue a career in political science but I ended up studying for a degree in law with a Masters in International Trade and Investment Law in Africa to satisfy my thirst for the political economy,” Mukora-Mangoma said.
Her involvement with another social club, Interact, led to her widening her life skills entering a completely different terrain.
“I was part of the Interact club because I have always had a keen interest in fashion, part of that has shaped my journey into becoming a self-taught fashion designer,” she said.
Without limiting herself, she has also decided to guide young women in their quest to reach their full potential.
“As a life coach, I teach young women to name and define their true purpose in life in order for them to reach the epitome of their desires,” Mukora-Mangoma said, outlining the need for extra-curricular activities that identify talent.
Despite their potential in grooming future leaders in society, extra-curricular activities need to be calibrated with real life situations for effectiveness.
Mukora-Mangoma says there is need to bring the pragmatic real life element into extra-curricular activities for them to achieve the intended results.
“For instance, pupils as public speakers should have occasion to visit the courts and watch lawyers engage in the real art of public speaking,” she said.
Schools can also play a part in reaching out to practising experts to bring their knowledge to benefit those involved.
“Clubs should be encouraged to invite practising practitioners that align their clubs with the broader goal,” said Mukora-Mangoma.
The country could have more multi-dimensional professionals in the mould of Mukora-Mangoma if enough resources and priority were given to extra-curricular activities.
Or at least if activities like debate received the same attention as Mathematics and English in schools, most pupils would grow up with an idea of what they want to achieve and work towards those respective ends.
Renowned professional speaker and life coach, Njabulo Moyo credited early grooming for his career choice.
“I started public speaking in primary school at Lobengula Primary around 1997, I used to do poetry, debates and speeches,” he said.
From his humble beginnings, speaking in front of his peers in primary school, he has travelled the world through his craft.
“The key element in public speaking is confidence. I must say the platform I got in primary and high school played a very big part in building my confidence. I am now a professional speaker, consultant and speech trainer,” Moyo said.
He added: “I have done talks in Stockholm, Copenhagen, Beruit, Washington DC, Chicago Illinois and other cities.”
Moyo said there is a chance that a person will excel in their trade of choice if they enter it early.
Despite the challenges he faced following a profession that is a deviation from the traditional white collar jobs, he says he is now a JT Foxx certified public speaker.
JT Foxx is a globally acclaimed public speaker who is described by www.realsuccess.net as the number one wealth speaker in the world.
Debate expert Ntandoyenkosi Moyo, Managing Consultant at Speak Training Zimbabwe, says ideas need to be properly packaged to gain attention in a global village full of ideas.
“Debate plays a huge role in the pupil’s personal development but one role that I think is critical is that it equips students with the advocacy and analytical skills that allow them to lobby for support or assistance,” he said.
Moyo suggests that more focus be given to debate since it is an integral part in many professions.
“Debate is like bread, it goes better with everything else.
“There are a number of careers for pupils which they can use as a result of their debating knowledge such as being social commentators or communication coaches.
“But, I would advise they couple the competencies they learn from debate with a technical skill like law, journalism, administration so as to make it more commercially viable,” he said.
He started an organisation that seeks to promote debating in primary and secondary schools across the country.
“I started a not-for-profit organisation called the Global Foundation of Public Speaking, whose aim is to groom globally competitive professionals through public speaking related extra-curricular activities,” Moyo said.
Through this organisation, they sponsor a lot of debate and public speaking events in private and public primary, secondary and tertiary institutions nationwide.
“We average between 300 to 500 students at our monthly league competitions that we host for member schools in partnership with our other corporate partners and various government ministries,” he said.
There is a need to increase related initiatives to reach the learner demographic in the country.
Years ago, the National Museums and Monuments used to run quiz competitions where pupils would compete in expressing knowledge.
It created opportunities for pupils in the country and some even got opportunities to travel beyond the country’s borders.
Much like how in America there are mathematical decathlons and spelling bees at national level, the pursuance of extra-curricular activities may introduce the country to a new breed of geniuses.
The traditional classroom activities may not be enough to unearth the gems that Zimbabwe may be holding.