I have had a legendary friendship with Shavane Joseph the Staff Sponsor for the Nevis Literary and Debating Society for more than a decade and so when I heard that Nevis had won, I felt so proud of her. She would have taken on the role as Staff Sponsor at a young age but her success is poignant testimony that youth is not a hindrance to leadership but may very well be commensurate with it. Her immense personal, physical and financial sacrifice to prepare the students for the past years for this competition has not gone in vain.
Herself, along with the indefatigable Shannel Simmonds, the indomitable Sheila Hanley and the other support staff have toiled and labored without the sweet taste of victory and now it is time they drink from that cup. My own involvement has shown that although CSS has a staffroom of 50 plus teachers that it is less than a handful of these teachers that actually help in debate preparation owing to a host of other school activities among other things. However these three women should get the world of commendation. Debates are not easy to prepare for especially when you have to deal with an indifferent set of students who sometimes give the impression that they look forward to LIDC simply for the entertainment and travel opportunities.
Students being students sometimes look to teachers to do everything but present the debate. This is grossly unfair to any teacher, but these three women have worked hard along with the faithful students over the years to make Nevis proud. Sometimes they would have felt that they were all alone with the exacting task of preparing debates when everyone including sometimes the very students have gone home but they have given new meaning to putting “Country Above Self”.
As I soaked in the sense of euphoria at the airport yesterday when victorious Team Nevis was welcomed by their parents, teachers and government officials, it was obvious that this victory was too sweet to simply give up on next year. A competitor is not one who simply basks in his victory but has a keen eye on the future. After seven years in the wilderness, this victory gives us cause for celebration but we must avoid complacency at all costs. The Nevis Literary and Debating Society must try to get the tapes of all debates and start their assessment of their weaknesses with an eye for the repeat.
St Kitts had it for three consecutive years and the very least we can do is prove to the rest of the Leeward Islands that we will replicate what our sister island did if not double it. I must congratulate the debaters Jeremy Dylon Browne, Kyra Evelyn, Nikesia Pemberton, Urnesia Pemberton, Shaniele Skeete and Jeson Leblanc who represented their country with the dedication, discipline and distinction that were necessary to pull off the victory. While only three of these actually debated, my experience in these competitions has taught me that all six debaters are needed for compiling, critiquing, customizing and concretizing the final debate. These young men and women would have had to sacrifice their regular studies and Internal Assessments to focus on representing Nevis and they should be lauded. It would also be remiss of me not to salute the efforts of Ms. Opal Parris who served as President of the Debating Society for the 2010-2011 period and whose profound leadership skills were so critical in guiding TEAM Nevis to victory.
As we look to the future, it is critical that we ensure that the Nevis Literary and Debating Society becomes more than a society but an institution that produces quality public speakers with a wealth of knowledge about various socio-economic issues, and a willingness to speak authoritatively on matters of importance in our country with a conviction rooted in love for the Queen of the Caribees. It must not just churn out six such people per year but should have a pool of 15 people every year that our country can be proud of. The Charlestown Sixth Form College is more than just an educational institution but a vehicle for national development. This though cannot happen by simply extracting more from these three goodly women but by us as a country contributing our time, expertise, finances and goodwill to this effort.
Just as the whole country is enthused when Nevis wins, the whole country should contribute to this effort. Together everyone achieves more (TEAM). We must let this victory be the fillip for greater things for generations down the road. My children (who are just seven months) when they get into Sixth Form must see 2011 as a watershed year in the life of the Nevis Literary Debating Society. Companies must come on board and sponsor debates like the NHLDC did last year. Companies and individuals must also be there calling the teachers and asking them for debate topics so that they can assist with research and debate compilation.
Debaters should be exposed to regular public speaking classes. Students should not only debate just for LIDC but have a host of informal debates when the club meets just to expose them to the art of constructive argument. We must adopt the philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King when he spoke of the fierce urgency of NOW. In the past we would have waited too late and had to exit the competition early.
In closing, let me again congratulate the debaters, the supporters, the NIA for their generous donation, the corporate sponsors, and the support staff who have worked tirelessly on these debates along with the members of HOPE Nevis Incorporated. Together we like Samuel of Bible Days can raise our Ebenezer and say “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us”!