All talk: RCHK students with the gift of the gab

Written By Megan Chan

Most of the RCHK community, the primaries, the secondaries, the teachers and various staff members, likely spent their term breaks relaxing - perhaps going on vacation, or catching up with some much-needed sleep. While the rest of the RCHK community kicked back and enjoyed the relaxation, the junior debaters of RCHK were hard at work.

Two debate tournaments took place over the term break, both hosted by Hong Kong Secondary School Debate Competition (HKSSDC). The first tournament took place on October 18th as part of HKSSDC’s main competition; the second, once again hosted by HKSSDC, was the Evershed Cup, taking place over the weekend of October 20th to 21st.

The HKSSDC competition takes place twice a year and is made up of several rounds. Those who sign up for the competition debate in the first three rounds, and those who win all three rounds move on to regionals. Teams that win both regionals within the school year then head on to the grand final, which only occurs once a year.

This year six students represented the RCHK junior debate team at Round 1 of this competition, the round consisting of two debates. The debate motion was: ‘This house will stop the production of biofuels” with two teams of three taking proposition and opposition respectively.

From left to right: Shannon Ng, Megan Chan, Mini Thirumalai A., Lucas Li, Tanush Agarwal, Daniel Cheung

From left to right: Shannon Ng, Megan Chan, Mini Thirumalai A., Lucas Li, Tanush Agarwal, Daniel Cheung

The RCHK debaters were up against Hong Kong International School (HKIS), whose debate team comprised mostly first-time-debaters. Naturally, RCHK had an advantage, given that their debaters were more experienced, some having debated for up to three years.

In the end, RCHK not only managed to win both rounds, but students Lucas Li and Megan Chan were also able to win two ‘best speaker’ awards, gaining another victory for the RCHK junior debate team.

These victories now pave the way to the subsequent rounds, a challenge Tanush Agarwal, one of the RCHK debaters, looks forward to with cautious optimism,

“Looking at our performance in SSDC previously, we have fared well,” Agarwal remarked.  “We must keep in mind, however, that we are against prominent teams for the upcoming rounds, and to win, we must come up with a strong case overall. I can say that if we achieve this, we can succeed.”

The second of the two competitions, the Evershed Cup, is an annual competition which not only features many rounds and motions, but also many different schools from around Hong Kong. Teams that sign up for the competition have to prepare fourteen speeches in total. There are seven motions and teams are required to prepare for both proposition and opposition, not knowing which side they will take until thirty minutes before the actual debate starts. Motions also differ heavily, ranging from topics such as inter-school sporting competitions to the culture of online shaming.

With this in mind, one might expected our debaters to have prepared for weeks on end. However, this was a far cry from reality. Debaters were notified of the Evershed Cup a mere three days before the actual competition, which coupled with the daunting amount of preparation required, meant that most were, unsurprisingly, reluctant to sign up. It took relentless emails to convince some to join - but even then, too few were recruited. Lacking one debater, RCHK recruited a fellow King George V (KGV) debater onto the team.

With only a day to prepare, the junior debaters had to give their best efforts.

“We did it on short notice,” team members recall. With the help of several senior students, the junior debaters managed to finish the speeches in time for the competition, despite the time constraints placed upon them.

From left to right: Lucas Li, Mikhail Lulla, Tanush Agarwal    Not pictured: Audrey Lau, Shriya Syrinivasan

From left to right: Lucas Li, Mikhail Lulla, Tanush Agarwal

Not pictured: Audrey Lau, Shriya Syrinivasan

The actual day of the competition proved to be similarly stressful. The competition took place in Tuen Mun, meaning that most debaters had to wake up as early as 5am.

The first day went quite well despite the stress though, with the RCHK team winning half of the debates, granting them a place in the quarter and semi finals. Their opponents were not able to make it for the quarter finals, meaning that RCHK went straight to the semi-finals, which RCHK unfortunately lost.

It was probably unrealistic to assume that RCHK could go on to the win the entire competition. Given the small amount of time they had for the immense amount of preparation, they did extremely well.

“Very proud of Evershed Cup as we had less time than most of the teams, but were still able to succeed,” Sandeep Chulani, RCHK’s debate coach, remarked.

The students too were also proud of their achievements and look back on the experience fondly. It may have been stressful, but it was an enjoyable debate nonetheless, a competition that allowed students to debate even more competitively than they were used to, going up against multiple schools and a multitude of students.