The finals of this year’s Constitution Hill Debating League competition should be a close-run thing, says organiser Lerato Sefume. They take place at Constitution Hill on 3 December.
The competition was established to champion constitutional education, by exposing learners to the Constitution of South Africa and the crucial role of the Constitutional Court. The league also develops school learners and equips them with research and public-speaking skills.
“We’re excited,” says Sefume. “It’s been very tough and very interesting.”
The tussle began in the first week of August with 670 learners from 67 schools across Gauteng signed up. The learners were divided into junior (grades eight and nine) and senior (grades 10 and 11) teams, says Sefume.
The first weekend was spent on training, and then the learners went through three rounds of competition. Now there are two junior and two senior teams left. The topics always revolve around constitutionalism, democracy and human rights.
Sixteen schools competed in 2009/10 and 100 in 2016. In 2014, the winning team from Bophelo-Impilo Community School in Mayfair, Johannesburg, won an all-expenses-paid trip to Uganda to join youth from other countries around the world.
The progress of the tournament also lies not only in the number of participating schools, but also in the number of corporate partnerships on the programme. These include the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights and International Law, the Gauteng Department of Education, the Gauteng Department of Economic Development and the Claude Leon Foundation charitable trust.
The objectives of the Constitution Hill Debating League are as follows:
To allow for further education and understanding of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights
To educate learners on the Bill of Rights in an informal manner and to encourage them to engage with important issues relating to our Bill of Rights
To educate learners on consumer rights
To encourage learners to develop important oratory skills
To enable learners and others involved to take ownership of the Constitution
To publicise Constitution Hill and the Constitutional Court as a landmark precinct and highlight their role in South African history