Students Urged to Embrace Intellectual Debates, a Key Attribute for Good Leadership

Godfrey Sserwanja, the District Education Officer of Hoima, speaking at the debate in Hoima.

Students have been urged to embrace intellectual debating if they are to develop the capabilities necessary to make them good leaders – in government, society and other areas of influence.

The appeal was made Wednesday by Nickson Ogwal, the Programs Director at Action Aid Uganda while addressing students who are participating in debating camps in Hoima and Masindi districts. The debates organized by Action Aid Uganda and Uganda Debating Council will see students discuss the Covid-19 pandemic and oil development in the Albertine region in relation to corruption.

Ogwal who addressed the students virtually via Zoom technology said young people are the most important resource to Uganda and that investing in their leadership capabilities is crucial.

“Supporting debating processes is part of building the leadership of young people because they are the most resourceful. We want you to use the rigour of ethical and professional presentation to develop the country,” Ogwal said.

Citing political leaders like Ignatius Musazi and Milton Obote who led Uganda to its Independence, Ogwal said these transformed Uganda when they were young. 

“This debate is supposed to build your capability in presenting yourself. A leader who can’t present themselves well cannot present issues affecting others. Good debating will help you present issues to better be understood, be voted for and acted on whether you are in Parliament, at school, or in government,” he further advised them.

He challenged them that debating isn’t about arguing, but rather following ethical values and rules. According to Ogwal, the quality of debate in the current Parliament leaves a lot to be desired, citing the lack of respect between the legislators and their poor attitude towards their constituents.

Regarding oil, he said there has been significant investment made in the Albertine region which necessitates accountability on the part of government. However, he noted that transparency on contractual obligations and how much Uganda will earn from this remains an issue.

“Uganda was recently admitted in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) which is a framework for international transparency for oil producing countries. This now means our government has accepted that issues of oil should be scrutinized by citizens and they should have access to all the information”.

“But the practice might be different. That’s why we need young people and all the citizens to understand how to get facts and engage. This debate will help you use the knowledge you have to engage with the oil companies and government on oil and other issues affecting your community,” Ogwal said.

“Voices can improve the effectiveness of getting our oil turned into a blessing not a curse. You are here to represent others and to let others in your school and villages know what you’ve learnt”.

On his part, Godfrey Sserwanja, the District Education Officer (DEO) of Hoima thanked Action Aid Uganda for this intervention that will help groom good debaters. 

“Today, debating is about understanding issues, analyzing them and coming up with the best options. I thank Action Aid for bringing this paradigm of debating. This country has few debaters. And the debaters we need are among you. The future Parliamentarians are among you,” Sserwanja told the students.

He urged them to continue preparing for studies and to have a new dimension on studying and how they reason out issues.

Kanganzi Esther, a student of Strive S.S in Hoima, who participated in the debates expressed gratitude for having been part of the exercise which she said has helped her boost her confidence and that it has been a learning experience.

Other participants said the debating exercise was a welcome intervention to keep them given they have been sitting at home for 5 months now due to the closure of schools by government as a result of Covid.

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