LOCAL students have made history recently – becoming the first South African team to win the French interuniversity debate tournament.
It was hosted by the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF), one of the largest associations of higher education and research institutions in the world founded almost 60 years ago.
Local students defeated the competing team at the University of Paris II Panthéon Assas, Mauritius, which was made up entirely of native speakers.
The team that took part in the 7th French Interuniversity Debate Tournament (TIUD7) was born out of the collaborative efforts of the French sections of Stellenbosch University and UCT.
Jaco du Plooy, lecturer and master’s student in the Department of Modern Foreign Languages at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences of the SU, assumed team leadership responsibilities.
There were also students with honors in French, Willow-Ruby van der Berg (SU) and Mia Todd (UCT).
The debate, which took place in the Indian Ocean region of the AUF, focused on social innovation and development.
“At the start, the fact that the tournament was held entirely in French was our biggest stress, because we also had to do all our research in French. We received press articles in French where possible, but we also wanted to bring the South African context with our examples to give it a more global feel related to local issues as well, ”said Du Plooy.
The competition was extended to a few non-French speaking countries this year, allowing South Africa to participate for the first time.
“It was Professor Catherine du Toit, director of the modern foreign languages department and vice-dean of the faculty who encouraged us to register. She was also the one who coached and guided us throughout the process, ”said Du Plooy.
“It’s always surreal to think that not only did we have the opportunity to participate in a French international debate, but that we actually won it,” said Van der Berg.
During the first “live” online part of the tournament, the team had to produce a video on social innovation: does it provide effective answers to socio-economic and environmental problems? This was followed by three live rounds, in which each team that completed the next round was notified two hours after the debate and presented a new topic for discussion in the next round the next day.
The second round focused on the institutionalization of social innovations: is this synonymous with disengagement / withdrawal of the State, against which the SU-UCT team pleads.
The third and final round focused on social innovation as a sustainable and sustainable response: is it just a brief response to a problem or can it be sustainable in the long term?
The other participating South African university, the University of Kwazulu-Natal (UKZN), was eliminated in the preliminary round.