Student Hamza Nouman reflects on his experience as a volunteer judge for the ESU
Why did you offer to judge?
My debating journey began in Year 9 when I was arguing the motion ‘This House Believes That School Uniforms Should Be Compulsory’. At the time, I vividly recall feeling somewhat bewildered, not quite grasping the nuances of the craft. However, over the year, I was able to develop, and even win accolades, all thanks to the invaluable support and and feedback I received from the judges and mentors. Consequently, I felt it was my turn to give back to the community that had nurtured my growth and passion.
I also believe in the ESU’s mission to give every child the ability to make their voice heard. I am passionate about the idea that young individuals can be catalysts for positive change and keen to empower the next generation to become effective advocates for important causes like climate change.
Additionally, volunteering as a judge allowed me to reconnect with the school environment, something I hadn’t experienced in a while. It provided me with a unique opportunity to engage with students and their ideas, offering fresh perspectives, albeit tinged with a sense of nostalgia.
What was the experience like?
The experience of judging debates while being a student in London was both enriching and refreshing. It’s easy to get so engrossed in your studies that you forget there’s a vibrant life outside the books, but judging debates allowed me to diversify my interests and take a much-needed break from the daily routine.
One of the great aspects of judging was its flexibility. Typically, debates started around 4.30pm or 5pm, and were done by 6.30pm, which meant they didn’t interfere significantly with my daytime working hours or academic commitments. Moreover, when students approached me seeking feedback and guidance, it served as a reminder of the importance of continuous personal development, as well as being highly satisfying to be able to help others on their own journeys.
One often-overlooked aspect of judging is the opportunity it gives you to explore places you might not have considered visiting otherwise – in my case High Wycombe, Tonbridge and Windsor, where I was invited to judge debate rounds.
Was there any particular highlight?
One moment that I’ll always cherish was when I was invited to help judge the grand finals of the Schools’ Mace competition at Dartmouth House. It was an incredible experience because some of the brightest minds in the country were present, and the audience was brimming with curiosity, asking numerous thought-provoking questions to the speakers during the floor session.
What have you learnt from being a volunteer judge?
Undoubtedly, my experience as a debate judge has been a remarkable journey of personal growth and skill development. It has given me a profound appreciation for the exceptional creativity and innovative thinking of the young people who participate. Witnessing their unique perspectives and the ingenious arguments they constructed inspired me to keep up with current affairs, and to apply imaginative and bold approaches to various academic and professional challenges.
Furthermore, the role required me to think critically about the students’ arguments and their performance. This analytical thinking, combined with the ability to weigh evidence and make well-founded judgments, was particularly helpful during my dissertation.
Finally, in order to provide constructive feedback to the debaters, I had to articulate my thoughts clearly and concisely. Practising this skill not only improved my ability to convey ideas effectively but also had a substantial impact on my confidence when engaging in public speaking and delivering presentations. It enabled me to tailor my communication style to diverse audiences, recognising the importance of adapting my message to meet the specific needs and expectations of different stakeholders.
Would you recommend being a volunteer judge with the ESU?
I would highly recommend the experience. Being part of the ESU has opened doors to valuable networking opportunities within a community of like-minded individuals passionate about education and effective communication. It’s our responsibility to empower the next generation, fostering their ability to express themselves and create a better world. Volunteering as a judge is a powerful way to uphold these obligations and contribute positively to our collective future.