“As the time draws closer, I am feeling really scared,” says Ali Akram Hayat, a student of Lahore Grammar School, who has been selected besides four others to represent Pakistan at the World Schools Debating Championship in South Africa.
Unlike Hayat, for whom this is the first time to represent his school at an international platform, the rest of the students seem rather confident.
The debating championship will begin on January 18 and continue till January 26.
The students, four from Lahore and one from Karachi, are being trained by the Debating Society of Pakistan (DSP) at LGS, Gulberg.
DSP President Taimur Bandey said that these students were selected in the national debating competition, which is held every year.
Bandey, an active debater throughout his academic life, said Pakistan has been earning a position in the top 10 teams out of the 50 teams participating in the world debating championships. Bandey, who has been selected as the chief adjudicator at the world championship for the next two years said, “There’s a lot of excitement but also an immense sense of responsibility and sometimes pressure that comes with adjudicating such an event.”
It’s also the first time for Aiman Jalal to participate in an international competition. “We hope to translate the efforts of our coaches into a tangible result this year,” she said.
Hayat and Jalal both shared their fears with The Express Tribune.
“It’s natural to be nervous when you are representing your country,” they said.
For Haseeb Haroon, a student of Karachi Grammar School, the experience at the camp in Lahore was “surreal” yet “productive.”
“I have been in Lahore for a month now and it feels like I never left Karachi,” he said.
Returning members from the world championships from 2011, Zainab Shahid and Ibrahim Rabbani, will also be participating in the 2012 championship. Shahid, an A Levels student, said she looked forward to interacting with students from other countries.
“We are very confident this time,” she said.
Rabbani, said though there was room for improvement, the past performances by the Pakistani teams have been very encouraging.
The teams are being coached by Ayesha Ahmed and Sufiyan Sultan. Sultan said there was a need to portray a soft image of Pakistan through such platforms. He said Pakistan will defend its 20-year championship title in the English second language category, and also compete in the English first language category this year.
DSP vice president Farah Masood said that the students were getting financial support largely from their educational institutes. However, she said, “We want recognition from the government. So that can open up opportunities for other children as well.”
The team will leave for Cape Town on January 16.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2012.