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Branksome Hall News

The Road to Worlds in South Africa: Branksome and the GAP School

Branksome Hall and the Get Ahead Project (GAP) School in Queenstown, South Africa have been in a close partnership for the past 20 years. From the exchange program that has fostered life-long friendships between students, to the fundraising support carried out by the Branksome community every year, our two schools have always been close. This year, the partnership grew even stronger as our students came together for one of the most important competitions in the world.

At the end of March, Branksome Hall students Anna, Fatima, Grace and Olivia and GAP School students Athenkosi and Liyema will compete in The World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championships (WIDPSC) in Durban, South Africa. Although the two schools will be competing against one another, the journey to this prestigious competition was one of collaboration, understanding and support. 

Experienced Branksome Hall Debate Coach Grace Nolan has been working with both groups of students as well as the GAP School Debate Coach to prepare them for the fierce competition ahead. Nolan is no stranger to Worlds—she has prepared students to attend this competition since 2010 and is confident that the competitors from both Branksome and GAP will be successful in Durban. The students have been honing their skills to compete in all four categories of the competition: Persuasive Speaking, Impromptu, Interpretive Reading and Debate. 

But the support did not stop there. Earlier in the year, executive team members Branksome Hall’s Debate and Speech Club Annie, Sobee and Angela designed and sold sweatshirts to the community to assist with fundraising for Athenkosi and Liyema’s flights to Durban, ensuring that these two talented students got the chance to speak on the Worlds stage. Other trip expenses including the Worlds registration fees were covered with the help of the Leacock Foundation, a charity Branksome has more than a 20-year history with that also supports the GAP School.

As the day of the competition gets closer, Coach Nolan offers a word of comfort to the students: “No matter what the results may be, your schools and your families are incredibly proud of your accomplishments. Try your best, make new friends and learn loads. Good Luck GAP and Branksome students!”

Congratulations and good luck to all six students attending Worlds! We look forward to hearing all about the competition upon your return from Durban, and are excited to strengthen and further our partnership with the Get Ahead Project School.
We wish to acknowledge this land on which Branksome operates. For thousands of years, it has been the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit River. Today, this meeting place is still the home to many Indigenous peoples from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work and go to school on this land.

Setting the new standard for girls' education everywhere takes collective action. From all of us.