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March 19, 2004

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Notre Dame Debating Club (NDDC) Turns 50
Perfecting the Art of Public Speaking


Debate is not just about sharpening one's speaking ability or a means of culturing one's analytical prowess or even honing one's argumentative skill. Debate is about assimilating the value of tolerance and having respect for other's opinion and values which, in our society, seem to be eroding fast. Thus, debate can be a very good tool for introducing these higher values among the younger generation. Notre Dame Debating Club has been relentlessly trying to imbibe in our young men this spirit of speaking freely and questioning other's opinion with due respect.

Notre Dame Debating Club (NDDC) is almost as old as Notre Dame College, -- both are fifty plus. This year NDDC is organising a two-day long cultural programme to celebrate its fiftieth birth anniversary on March 18-19 where former debaters of the college will have a chance to get together and reminisces the old days. Father RW Timm, CSC founded NDDC in the early months of 1953, when the college was on the upper floors of Saint Gregory School. Since the beginning of Notre Dame College, students have always been encouraged to take part in various extra-curricular activities. However, among some half a dozen clubs like Nature Study Club, Science Club, NDDC is the oldest and most active in the college.

What Father Timm started was initially called 'speech class' held on Fridays after the classes were over. In a speech class Father Timm would ask students to come onto the stage and speak impromptu on a given topic. In a write-up published in the 16th edition of a college magazine, Father Timm reminisces. "Towards the beginning when students came on the dias knees used to shake beyond control. After a few days they grew quite at ease," he writes. Internationally acclaimed lawyer and veteran politician Dr Kamal Hossain was among the first batch of debaters of Notre Dame Debating Club. Another prominent personality news presenter Dr Serajul Majid Mamun was the champion debater in the inter-class debate competition in 1960. Politician and at present an advisor to PM Khaleda Zia, Salauddin Kader Chowdhury was also a champion in inter-college debate competition in 1968. Another brilliant debater of the time was Mahfuz Anam, presently the editor and publisher of The Daily Star who became the all Pakistan Champion in English debate.

Until the mid-sixties the only medium of debate was English. In 1965 Garib-e-Newaz Khan, a professor of Bangla, introduced Bangla alongside English as the medium of debate. NDDC continues to lord over the debating scene in Independent Bangladesh, as it did in the pre-independence era. More importantly, by its consistent effort of holding inter-college and national level debate competitions, conducting workshops on debate inviting young debate enthusiasts from all over the country, NDDC has vigorously carried on the debate movement initiated in the early fifties. Today, in almost all the reputed schools, colleges and universities in Dhaka and in a large number of institutions outside Dhaka, debate is a regular fixture. The fact that debate has grown to its present status not only merely as an extra-curricular activity but also as a culture, owes much to the inspiring leadership of NDDC.

Over its fifty-year-long career NDDC has won numerous awards both in inter-college and national competition. "And when we lost, more often than not it was at the hands of the ex-Notredemians, who represented BUET, different Medical colleges or the teams of universities," points out Sohel Ahmed, a Lecturer in Bangla and Moderator of NDDC. Ahmed identifies a number of factors behind the remarkable success of NDDC. "Notre Dame being arguably the best college in the country has always received the best pool of students from all over the country. We, in Notre Dame College, have always had a good mechanism in place to nurture the young talents and the rich legacy inspires them to break new grounds in debate. Besides, we have been extremely fortunate to have inspiring leadership from each of the club moderators, particularly those of Father Timm's, and also from the likes of Gareeb-e-Newaz, Moktar Hossain.

Members of the debating club have such a strong bondage of friendship among each other that they love to remain actively associated long after they have left the college. Their assistance and guidance have enormously helped the young corps of debaters grow and flourish" Ahmed explains.

The students conduct all the activities of the club from organising competitions to arranging workshops. Besides, the NDDC has been publishing a magazine called "Doiroth", which has earned appreciation from different quarters. Besides articles by present and former debaters on debates, write-ups from celebrated writers, economists, educationists have enriched the magazine.

NDDC has not only produced a large number of good debaters, but has cultivated in its members the spirit of leadership and organising capabilities.




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