ASSISTING teacher Marian Plaatjies with Jodi Meyer, Lisa Jacobs, Mubaaraka Wilson, Taytum Baugaard and the head of the Elsies River High School debating society, Cher Franks. Photo: Supplied/Cher Franks
ASSISTING teacher Marian Plaatjies with Jodi Meyer, Lisa Jacobs, Mubaaraka Wilson, Taytum Baugaard and the head of the Elsies River High School debating society, Cher Franks. Photo: Supplied/Cher Franks

Cape Flats school’s debate boffins triumph against Science Academy team

By Robin-Lee Francke Time of article published Sep 15, 2021

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Cape Town - Pupils at a Cape Town high school have truly made their school proud after winning the astronomy and space debate.

Pupils from Elsies River High School’s debating team stood proud after they won a debate against the Cape Science Academy at the Cape Town Science Centre.

The event was hosted by the South African Astronomical Observatory with guest judges such as Jim Adams, who is retired from Nasa, Dr Martin Snow, chairperson of The South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) and Dr Sithabile Kolwa from the University of Johannesburg.

The debate topic was: Is the colonisation of Mars a good idea?

Speaking to IOL, Cher Franks, an English teacher at the school who has been the head of its debating society for the past four years, said a physics teacher had received an email for the school to participate in the The South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) debate competition. Franks sent the pupils content that they could use to prepare for the debate.

The team comprised four female pupils, all in Grade 11.

She said mock debates were held and teachers gave pupils pointers on how to improve their skills as their debating topic would oppose the colonisation of Mars.

In the end, the ladies on the team won the competition.

“This experience has really been an amazing one. I’m so grateful it has given the pupils a chance to meet new people and explore new avenues of where debating could possibly take them.

“When it comes to speaking and listening, it is also a form of the oral aspect of English. I use the skills I have been taught and train the pupils from Grade 9.

PROUD teacher Cher Franks and her girls from the Elsies River High School debating team. Picture: Supplied/Cher Franks

“I'm so grateful for the journey I have been on with them.

“They are brilliant, very hard-working young ladies and I can only imagine all possibilities out there and the opportunities that await them with their work ethic and positive attitudes towards life,” Franks said.

The school will have another debate against the Cape Science Academy, this time on a friendly basis.

Franks said they hope to have friendly debates with various schools to expose pupils to different environments and to meet new people.

Grade 11 pupil Mubaaraka Wilson has been a member of the debating team since Grade 9.

She said it was an unforgettable experience and their nerves were “in the air”.

“We were going over our debate in the car on our way to the venue and you could hear the nerves because of who we were going up against.

“On the arrival of the pupils from the other school, we were even more nervous as we had no clue what to expect,” she told IOL.

Wilson said the debate had opened her eyes to the wonders of what is yet to be discovered in this world.

She said she was also hit with the realisation that a person can do whatever they want if they put their minds to it.

Wilson describes herself as “definitely not being outspoken” but the debate had given her the courage to want to better herself in that aspect.

“I have also been an achiever, never a speaker. I would do things silently, but this showed me I can voice my opinions. It has also shown me I do not have to be shy about what I want to say. It has given me the courage to speak out.

“I am so proud of my team and myself for going into this debate. It was such an incredible moment when we found out we had won, but knowing that our entire school was going to be proud of us made it so much more worth it,” Wilson said.

She said it was not an easy challenge as the school they were up against was a science school and had much more insight into things, but she said this just made the team more determined and thorough and fuelled them to give it their all.

Next year, Elsies River High School will be participating in the SAASTA competition. However, it will be with a new team as the current team progresses to Grade 12.

Pupils can join the debating team from Grade 9.

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