St Joseph Makoni primary school of Rusape over the weekend added $15 000 to their bank balance and a floating trophy to their cabinet after they out-shined nine other provincial winners from the country's 10 provinces to emerge champions of the inaugural CBZ Schools Debate Championship at Rainbow Towers Hotel in Bulawayo.
Mabhugudhwane Primary School who represented Bulawayo and Matabeleland South's representative Welton Primary School received $10 000 and $5 000 plus trophies respectively for occupying the second and third spots while all the provincial winners pocketed $2 000 each.
The CBZ Schools Debate Championship programme is a national event for primary schools hosted by the Institute of African Knowledge in partnership with National Association of Primary Heads.
The debate was held in three phases with the first rounding pitting Midlands representatives Lingfield Primary School against St Joseph Makoni (Rusape) who represented Manicaland and the later emerged victors with 328 points against 171. Mabhugudhwane Primary School who represented Bulawayo clashed against Harare province representatives Mutasa Primary and the former won with 309 against 239 points.
Mashonaland East representatives Murehwa Central Primary School got 245 points to beat Emuhlangeni Primary School who stood in for Matabeleland North who had 143 points. Matabeleland South's Welton Primary School amassed 280 points to beat Mashonaland West province's representatives Lady Tait Primary who had 217 points while Masvingo's Victoria Junior got 283 points to beat Bindura Primary who represented Mashonaland Central.
In the second round Victoria Junior clashed against Welton Primary School while St Joseph Makoni locked horns with Mabhugudhwane Primary School. From the four schools, Mabhugudhwane Primary School and St Joseph Makoni amassed the highest points to proceed to the finals with the later emerging victors after they scored 305 points against 293.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister Paul Mavhima, who was the guest of honour at the event, applauded the debate organisers for bringing such a programme to the nation.
"Empowering winning schools with $50 000 in prizes to enhance and facilitate the learning process has been an overdue way of looking at things. I commend non-State actors like CBZ Holdings and Institute of African Knowledge who team up to bring vibrancy to the education process by deploying vast resources without motivation of profit," he said.
"The only gain they expect is bringing diversity and excitement to the learning process. And they have joined in since March this year. I recommend the corporate sector to take a leaf from this plausible model of being a responsible member of the community."
Mavhima said the prize monies will enable the debate clubs to invest more in research, set up and development as this is a new initiative in most of these schools.
"This is a complete prize package and there are no excuses anymore of why this and that will not be done," he said.
The debate's national programme co-ordinator, Isheanesu Sibanda of Institute of African Knowledge yesterday said they had unearthed many talented debaters in the country and they are committed to uplift this talent with their partners by making the event an annual episode.
"The inaugural edition of the CBZ Schools Debate Championship started very well this year with approximately 1 000 primary schools taking part from the district, provincial up to the national competitions. Zimbabwe has good debaters and there is no doubt that in the future some of these debaters will become national leaders, public speakers of reckon," he said.
"We appreciate the support from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education as we have noticed a certain injection of fresh air in the education sector since the new dispensation and we commend the ministry to continue with this new framework of thinking where a lot of co-curricular activities are now being seen across the country."
Sibanda said the future is bright for Zimbabwe judging by the debating skills exhibited at the event. "The debate competition has to be enhanced going into the future, something that has to go regional if not continental," he said.