Liberian debate team faces money problems in Croatia

Liberian debaters at the WSDC in Croatia

The Liberian team taking part in the World Schools Debating Championships (WSDC) in Croatia is experiencing hard times financially, says the executive director of Youth for Change (YOC), the organization which holds national school debates in Liberia.

Speaking to Nordic Africa News over the weekend, Alex Devine said his organization is currently looking around for money to send to the team to settle urgent bills.

Liberia, with a team of five (three debaters, one coach and a manager), is taking part in the WSDC for the first time, he said.

The Liberian debaters include 19-year-old John Singbea II, 18+year-old Beulah Nimene and Youben Wilsitoe (19).

But the journey to the competition has been a very difficult one. Although the Liberian government provided air tickets, the team travelled to Zagreb on empty pockets.

Devine said that apart from about $500 urgently needed to settle arrears, the organization is also hoping to raise about $2,000 for the upkeep of the team until July 30 when it is expected to travel back home to Liberia.

The tourney ends three days earlier but travel arrangements require the Liberians to leave the country on the 30th, he explained.

He noted that the WSDC, according to reports from the delegation, has been a new experience, adding that Liberia has had four matches, losing twice to Bermuda and Argentina and awaiting results from duels with Kuwait and Poland.

Information from WSDC notes that “The World Schools Debating Championship (WSDC) is a global competition for national high school debate teams. Teams from all over the world gather in a battle of minds, discussing 13 different topics set by an international panel of debate experts.

“With over 50 different countries regularly participating in the tournament, WSDC is a truly global event. Promoting excellence, creativity and, crucially, critical thinking, WSDC is not only a competition but a forum for the best and the brightest of students. The tournament lasts for 10 days during which highly competitive debate rounds interchange with social activities and is a unique experience for all competitors.”

Debate is one of YOC’s core programs and since 2015 it has hosted national schools debate competitions in Liberia with the latest drawing participants from seven counties: Nimba, Bong, Bassa, Margibi, Bomi, Cape Mount and Montserrado. The aim is to take the competition to every part of the country.

During each debate competition, YOC spots ‘eloquent speakers’ and maintain contact with them through a network. Teams of eloquent speakers, after proper vetting, make up the country’s representatives at international events.

Last December, Team Liberia made a sensational debut at an African competition in South Africa, coming third placce among 14 countries and taking home the most outstanding team accolade after winning five out of eight match-ups in its debut.