Left to right: Winner of the Prepared Speeches, Abianna Fenty; second place in the Prepared Speeches, Onari Grenville; winner of the Table Topics, Leah Persaud; second place in the Table Topics; Jaydn Gill; and third place in the Prepared Speeches, Zaria Hintzen. (Photo: Pamala Grant-Desir/GP)

An oratorical competition that has for the past four years enhanced the language skills of juniors at Harrison College (HC) could soon be expanded to include a senior component, as well as an inter-school format.

This was alluded to by Principal Juanita Wade as well as English Teacher/Faculty Advisor of the school’s libORATORS, Gloria A. Haynes, when they spoke to the Barbados Government Information Service at the close of yet “another successful” Kolij Independence Oratorical Contest.

Ms. Wade, while praising the execution of the programme by Mrs. Haynes and a team of students, said it was a pleasure to see participating students “holding their own and benefiting greatly” from a school activity that was not only facilitated by their peers but corporate Barbados as well.

“We are seeing an improvement in our students’ language and presentation skills as a result, and it is really a good thing to see those who were winners before and those who were participants in previous years, continuing to work with the new oratorical contestants,” she remarked.

Adding that she had witnessed the standard of competition improve each year, the principal said while at present it was just a competition for juniors, the school would be examining whether, in the future, there would be a senior one, allowing for these said juniors to further enhance their skills and techniques.

“The hope really is that the juniors would continue to have theirs and the seniors too.  Also, the idea of the competition is for these juniors to graduate and become part of the senior debating society because that is a well-established society here at HC, as well. So, the hope is that they would want to continue.  Of course, there are competing activities as students get older, but we hope they would be so enthused by what they have accomplished at the junior level that they would want to continue at the senior level.

“When they become older students, they will be required to make presentations in their various classes, English is one of them for sure, where they would be required to make both prepared and unprepared speeches, so it is something that can only benefit them as they get older. 

They are capable; they have a lot of opportunities to practise their skills and we would want that by the time they reach sixth form, these skills are sharpened,” Mrs. Wade said.

Deputy Principal of Harrison College, Dr. Martin Alleyne (right) presents winner of the Table Topics, Leah Persaud with one of her prizes. (Photo: Pamala Grant-Desir/GP)

Observing that some juniors came into the competition with language skills already sharpened, the principal maintained she was satisfied that debating could be, for these youngsters who pass through the competition, a viable extracurricular activity.

Meanwhile, founder and brainchild of the competition, Mrs. Haynes, proud of how far it has progressed, acknowledged it was testimony to the fact that it was “very well executed every year”.

While expressing gratitude to the Toastmasters who trained the students, the sponsors and judges, she stressed: “The competition is of a very high standard because we have seasoned public speakers, distinguished Toastmasters on board and I found that we were able to see the fruits of their labour on stage this year.  We have so many sponsors, repeat sponsors, who come back and so many [student] helpers and certainly, the prizes that the contestants win are extraordinary.”

However, the English teacher admitted that the competition might need to undergo some evaluation after its four-year run. 

Mrs. Haynes said: “We need to pause and see where we need to go with it.  I even had an idea where other schools may be able to benefit from it because I don’t think that other schools actually have an oratorical competition, though some may have debating societies.

 “I know our own students are looking forward to it next year, but whatever format it takes for the future would have to be based on evaluation.”

The Kolij Independence Oratorical Contest is usually divided into two sections: Prepared Speeches and Impromptu Speeches (known also as Table Topics). The 2019 competition saw 13-year old Abianna Fenty emerging winner in the Prepared Speeches while 12-year old Onari Grenville and Zaria Hintzen placed second and third, respectively.  In the Table Topics, 13-year old Leah Persaud was the winner, while 12-year old Jaydn Gill came second.

Prizes awarded included trophies, Samsung Galaxy A10 phones, printers, speakers, headsets, vouchers for lunch, bank accounts and other paraphernalia.


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