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Capricorn High School’s senior debate team are, in front, Thabita Makate, Tsebo Sekole and Mahlako Kgomoeswana and at the back are Lethabo Manamela, Regina Sampa (educator in charge of debating) and Sagale Sodi.

Debaters have an answer for everything

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When it comes to being able to discuss just about any topic, Capricorn High School’s senior debate team has an answer for everything.
Five members of the team, Thabita Makate, Tsebo Sekole, Mahlako Kgomoeswana, Lethabo Manamela and Sagale Sodi came second overall with two of them, Tsebo and Mahlako, finishing in the Top 10 of the Nelson Mandela Debating Challenge that was presented by Tshimong in collaboration with the Nelson Mandela Foundation and held from 3 to 9 April as part of centenary celebrations for Madiba who would have turned 100 years old this year had he lived. The topics during the debating challenge were all Madiba-themed.
According to Regina Sampa, the educator in charge of the debate team, the competition started out as a vlogging contest where they were required to create a video answering a question specific to their province, being Limpopo. “The girls were selected to represent Limpopo in the competition and spent six days attending workshops and lectures as well as competing in six debating matches, all held at Madiba-inspired venues including the Apartheid Museum and Orlando West High School,” she explains.
The team reached the final held at the Nelson Mandeala Foundation in Johannesburg where they lost to the KwaZulu Natal team. “The experience was an excellent learning curve we certainly won’t forget. We thank everyone involved for their effort and support throughout,” are the team’s sentiments.
All five chatterboxes are all-round academic achievers and have a wide general knowledge about the world and most things in it. With their varied interests as individuals, they make an enormously strong team when combining all their knowledge.
Thabita is in Grade 11 and has been doing debating since she was in Grade 8 in order to develop her skills. She is also a first aider at her school. Her favourite subject is life sciences because she loves learning what makes people and other things tick. She hopes to become an orthopaedic surgeon one day. The one thing that stands out for her about Madiba and his life is activism against apartheid. “The debating challenge was awesome and I really learnt a lot, not only about debating but also about Madiba,” she says.
Tsebo, one of the learners who finished in the Top 10, is in Grade 10 and has been debating since Grade 6, and she also plays hockey. “I first started doing debating when I was elected as a prefect in primary school. That was when I discovered that I enjoy public speaking. I love debating because one learns so much about the world,” she says.
Her favourite subject is history as she loves learning the why and how of occurrences in the past. She hopes to study law and international relations one day. What she loves most about Madiba is his philanthropy.
Mahlako is the other learner who finished in the Top 10 and she is currently in Grade 11. She has been debating since she was in Grade 6 and loves doing so because it gives her a platform to express herself. Her favourite subject is economics and she would love to be an economist one day. International relations also interests her and she loves reading. “Madiba’s story is an inspiration. No matter what circumstances he was living under, he always kept his vision,” she says.
Lethabo is in Grade 11 and has been debating since Grade 8. “I started because I wanted to accumulate knowledge and learn to think critically about situations,” she says. She also plays netball.
History is her favourite subject as she believes it helps analyse society and solves many riddles about people. She would like to have a career that combines history and the law. What stands out for her most about Madiba’s life is his eagerness to change society and bring about equality.
Sagale is in Grade 10 and has been debating since Grade 7 although she took a break from it in Grade 8. She is also a first aider at her school. She started doing debating because she was shy and lacked confidence in herself. “Debating opened up the whole world to me,” she says.
Her favourite subject is physics including chemistry because she loves seeing the results that combining different elements bring. She is considering a career in plastic surgery.
“One of the things that impress me most about Madiba is that he still had the drive to study even while he was in prison,” she says.
Sampa says the next challenge the team is looking forward to is the Limpopo Department of Transport’s Road Safety Debate Competition this month during which a Limpopo Debate Team will be chosen.
The team is unanimous about advice they have to give to others. “Always be as well informed as possible. Hold onto your dreams and work hard for them to become a reality.”

Story & photo: KAREN VENTER
>>karen@observer.co.za