Over 90 students from across the Cayman Islands gathered at the Cayman International School on Thursday 27 October for the 13th Conyers Inter-Schools Debate Tournament. Despite several cancellations of this typically bi-annual debate due to Covid-19, the 13th edition was the largest ever with over 150 participants including students, coaches, judges and other volunteers. Students from seven schools competed in the Novice and Open Divisions on the resolution that “Single use plastics should be banned in the next ten years”.

The final round of the Open debate was judged by the Hon Madam Justice Carter of the Cayman Islands Grand Court and took place on stage in front of other students, judges, coaches, parents and Deputy Speaker & Parliamentary Secretary, Hon Katherine Ebanks-Wilks. The final debate was a lively one between teams from Layman Scott High School and Cayman International School, with both teams demonstrating eloquent passion for the resolution. Layman Scott’s Raeann Matute-Scott and Karishma Seeram from Cayman Brac, arguing the negative, took home top honours.

Open Division Team Awards

  • Raeann Matute-Scott and Karishma Seeram, Layman Scott High School, First Place Team
  • Natalia Cugliari and George Zimmerman, Cayman International School, Runners Up

Open Individual Awards

  • Natalia Cugliari, Cayman International School, First Place Speaker
  • Aleque Benjamin Bennett, Clifton Hunter High School, Second Place Speaker
  • Chad Powell Jr, University College of the Cayman Islands, Third Place Speaker

Novice Division Team Awards

  • Cailyn Chambers and Kai Roberts, Layman Scott High School, First Place Team
  • James Coleman and Laia Swaminathan, Cayman International School, Runners Up

Novice Individual Awards

  • Cailyn Chambers, Layman Scott High School, First Place Speaker
  • Luana Slevin, Cayman International School, Second Place Speaker
  • Kai Roberts, Layman Scott High School, Third Place Speaker

Sponsored by Conyers, the Conyers Inter-Schools Debate is the only debating tournament in the Cayman Islands. The tournament was founded and organised by Tournament Director Ian Whan Tong, and is sustained by a large team of volunteer judges (drawn mainly from the local legal and business community), coaches and teachers, with support from the judiciary, government and legislative leaders.

“This year marked an incredible milestone for the Conyers Inter-schools Debate Tournament, with over 300 student participants since the competition began seven years ago,” said Ian Whan Tong. “After missing two consecutive tournaments due to COVID-19 restrictions, the interest from schools was overwhelming and this was our largest event by more than 20%. I am once again reminded of the importance of debate which promotes clarity of thought, critical thinking, communication skills, and confidence for the young people of the Cayman Islands. My many thanks go out to all the volunteers, judges, coaches and supporters in the community who continue to make this event such a success.”

Speaking to the more than 100 student debaters and volunteers, Conyers Partner Alan Dickson remarked, “The ability to get out in front of a crowd like this, speak your mind, say what you have to say and answer questions that are asked of you on your feet – it’s a life skill that you will use all your life! I applaud all the students for trying to develop that skill; it’s one that will take you a long way. At Conyers, our lawyers are known for communicating and maybe one day we’ll see you in our halls and get a chance to work with you. Congratulations to all the debaters, it was very fun to watch.”

In preparing for this year’s resolution, students were given the opportunity to meet and discuss current issues surrounding single-use plastics with Bella Rooney, Operations Manager of Plastic Free Cayman, a non-profit organisation established to increase action, awareness and education to reduce plastic pollution in the Cayman Islands and across the Caribbean, who also volunteered as a judge at this year’s debate.

“It was amazing to hear the youth voices delve into such a complex but vital topic!” Bella commented. “Although Plastic Free Cayman urges the banning of single-use plastics, particularly in the Cayman Islands, as these amazing debaters highlighted, a ban on a global scale must be dealt with urgently and cautiously taking into account all points of views and risks.”

Since its inception in October 2015, the Conyers Inter-Schools Debate Tournament has seen more than 300 high school students from all secondary schools across the Cayman Islands participate in this exciting and academically significant event. As part of this year’s tournament, a donation was made by Conyers to Plastic Free Cayman to support their continued work to reduce plastic pollution across our beautiful islands.

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