My name is Nazneen Asmal and I am a part-time PhD student and part-time teaching assistant at UCLan. My job role in Debating Differences was to be a judge alongside another member of staff from Prison and decide at the end of the debate which group made a more convincing argument based on quality, knowledge and delivery of the arguments presented. After having judged the first session, I know this role is going to be a tough due to the excellent input everyone makes.
This experience has been a big eye-opener for me, from someone who has never been to a prison or even met a prisoner; this has changed my views on what I perceive prison and prisoners to look like completely. I admit, I am guilty of the stereotypical view, but having been to the first session, I now have a new found respect to those who are in prison; I am inspired, moved and motivated that sessions like these can be very beneficial and encouraging, especially when one of the prisoner at the end of the debate tells you that he now wants to go to university after getting out of prison! If debating differences is not a form of rehabilitation and inspiration to get into education, then I do not know what is!
Watching individuals grow more and more confident as the debate progresses within just the first session has definitely been a highlight for me. This has reinforced my belief on what an amazing opportunity this is; not just for those who are self-confident but more so for those who struggle with speaking in public but are getting involved and overcoming their fears in a safe environment where everyone works together in a team and all views are welcomed.
This session has also been a learning curve for myself, where I can take a step back and observe and listen in on the stimulating debate. It is extremely rewarding when the quality of the arguments presented are of a very high standard and such that I would not have thought of myself, indicating what a group of enthusiastic individuals can achieve when they work together and get involved. If the first session is anything to go by, then I cannot wait for the rest of them!