St. Maarten teens win debating competition in Antigua

March 22, 2023 2:22 pm

PHILIPSBURG -- A team of teenage debaters from St. Maarten won a debating competition in Antigua earlier this month. St. Maarten beat St. Kitts in the finals, debating the topic: “The Caribbean’s failure to take mental illness seriously has caused irreparable damage to families and communities.” Debaters Pooja Ramkripaul and Adio Williams successfully supported this proposition.

Ramkripaul, a student from St. Dominic High won the prize for the best debater of the competition. St Maarten’s team consisted of eight members, aged between 14 and 19. Apart from Ramkripaul they were Odinakachukwu Nwoke (Milton Peters College), Nysette Gomes (MPC), Fayah Ortega (MPC), Adio Williams (St. Dominic High), Radharani Natram (St. Dominic), Seybian Ortega (Learning Unlimited), Mahuli Richardson (Learning Unlimited) and Radiah Mathew (MPC).

The Leeward Island Debating competition took place on Saturday, March 14, at the John E. St. Luce Finance and Conference Center in Antigua.

To reach the finals, St. Maarten beat Anguilla in a debate over the topic: “Caribbean countries should prescribe that one-third of parliamentary representatives must be females.” Debaters Mathew and Nwoke opposed this proposition and won.

St. Kitts bested Antigua over the topic “Efforts to reverse climate change are doomed to fail.”
“Debating is a great skill to enroll your child in,” assistant coach Norisca Fleming said. “It helps them with public speaking, critical thinking, and research skills. They can use it for their curriculum if they intend to go to college. It is also useful in their daily lives.”

The coaching team consisted of Roberto Arrindell, Norisca Fleming, Reverend Liana Richardson-Woods, and Nicole Williams-Wynter.

The Hyacinth Richardson Educational Awareness foundation has been a member of the Leeward Islands Debate Competition since 2005. Richardson, a Member of Parliament, traveled with the debaters to Antigua as their coordinator.

Odinakachukwu Nwoke said before the beginning of the contest that getting ready for the debate was very stressful. “I feel like everything was worth it because I feel like we are prepared to go in, have a good time, show our best selves, and possibly win.”

Adio Williams: “It is a fun pastime. You learn a lot, exchange ideas, and hear different perspectives.”

Nwoke was not so sure before she tried her hand at debating. “I never saw myself as a debater until my English teacher, Miss Fleming, convinced me to try out for the debate club at my school. At my first try-out I realized that I love bringing up my opinion based on facts and articulating my words. From there, my passion grew.”

Coach Fleming said that the participating students are very dedicated and that they had worked hard in preparation for the competition. “Most of them are in exam class, so having to do both too some good dedication.”

Coach Roberto Arrindell had some prophetic words before the beginning of the competition. “The students are very well prepared despite the circumstances. We expect to go there, do our best, and return with the trophy.”

The debate streamed live on Sunday, March 5. Readers can watch the video recording on YouTube via:
Final debate: