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Students debate specialised schools during Commonwealth Youth Summit

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As Parliament sat in the House of Assembly yesterday, a replica parliamentary debate was being held in a conference room across Hamilton.

The Commonwealth Youth Summit, hosted by Bermuda's Youth Parliament, brought together 36 students from six different schools for a taste of the real thing.

A simulated Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting was held by students from the Berkeley Institute, Bermuda High School, CedarBridge Academy, Impact Mentoring Academy, Saltus Grammar School and Somersfield Academy. The summit at the XL Capital office finished with a room split between Government and Opposition.

They had earlier debated a motion that specialised schools should be implemented as part of the public education system in Bermuda.

Berkeley student Kevina Davis and Ariel DeSilva from Somersfield found themselves negotiating frequent Opposition interruptions on points of information while they tried to defend the proposal.

Youth Parliament Premier Nicole Wilson, placed on the Opposition side, began a closing speech: “We do not think that making trade schools is an economically viable option. Government has been getting the term ‘free' confused.”

Youth Speaker of the House Elizabeth Blankendal stopped her: “You can't put rebuttals in your closing speech.”

Foot-drumming and objections on both sides accompanied the debate, which followed the Commonwealth Day summits held yesterday in UK schools and organised by the Royal Commonwealth Society.

Miss Wilson said afterwards: “This is giving people a taste of what goes on in the Youth Parliament. We haven't been able to use the House of Assembly while the Budget debates have been doing on. The Youth Parliament is going to be starting again this Wednesday afternoon.”

Education Minister Dame Jennifer Smith, Environment and Planning Minister Walter Roban and clerk to the legislature Shernette Wolffe, arrived fresh from the House of Assembly.

Dame Jennifer told them: “We've only heard the last few moments of what must have been a very interesting debate, and you can be assured I am interested in finding ways that all of our students develop to their best potential.”

She thanked them for their passion and recommended that they send on their suggestions to Government.

Mr Roban also asked that the students forward their debates conclusions, which are to be compiled in an official communique.

Dame Jennifer then handed out certificates to the participants. Group two was declared the winners of that morning's five-group discussion of the United Nations' millennium development goals.

No winner was declared for the debate on education, however.

Youth Parliament president Samuel Bean explained: “In the normal House of Assembly it doesn't run like this, but we're judging either side on the points that they've conceded. We're not judging so much on speaking because it's a new experience for these students.

“We didn't actually announce it, but we think the Government had some of the best points today. On the other hand, announcing that would have stirred things up and disappointed the Opposition. In the real House you do have a winning side, but the important thing today was students taking part.”

The first speaker opens the debate during the Commonwealth Day Youth Summit involving 36 local high school students yesterday.
Photo by Mark Tatem Team Opposition prepare for their debate against Team Government during the Commonwealth Day Youth Summit involving 36 local high school students yesterday.
Photo by Mark Tatem Team Government prepare for their debate against Team Oposition during the Commonwealth Day Youth Summit involving 36 local high school students yesterday.

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Published March 15, 2011 at 10:16 am (Updated March 15, 2011 at 10:16 am)

Students debate specialised schools during Commonwealth Youth Summit

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