A group of students are representing Bermuda at an international debating competition in Vietnam.

The Bermuda national team are in Hanoi for the 35th annual World schools debating championships.

Bermuda has taken part in the global tournament involving 65 countries and territories, which takes place from tomorrow to July 28, since 1991.


This year marks the first time it has taken place in person since 2019 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bermuda Students Take On The World At Debating Championship
The 2023 Bermuda National Debate Team: Ava Gibson, Marli Spriggs, Matthew Banner, Annie Pursell, Olly Cherry

A spokesperson said, “Ava Gibson [16, BHS], Oliver ‘Olly’ Cherry [16, Somersfield Academy], Ann ‘Annie; Pursell [15, Somersfield Academy], Marli Spriggs [17, BHS], and Matthew Banner [17, Warwick Academy] make up the five-strong team who will be competing in the tournament due to kick off tomorrow, July 18th, through to the 28th. This tournament represents the height of senior school debate internationally, and Bermuda has participated since 1991.

“While the Covid-19 pandemic forced the tournament online, this year’s competition will be taking place in person for the first time since 2019, and over 65 nations are expected to attend.”

The team has been preparing for the event for months and over the tournament will debate topics including self-determination for Somaliland, the benefits of agricultural co-operatives, and the nine planetary boundaries framework.

Bermuda Students Take On The World At Debating Championship
Ava Gibson, Matthew Banner, Marli Spriggs, Rio Morton [Team Manager], Annie Pursell, Brice Pursell [2023 Adjudicator], Olly Cherry, C. Kijaun Millett [Team Coach]:

The team will be accompanied to Hanoi by Kijaun Millett, team coach, Rio Morton, team manager, and Brice Pursell, adjudicator.

The tournament will also feature impromptu elements which will see teams given a topic with limited time to prepare.

“This tournament will also feature various impromptu elements which will see teams given a topic with just one house to prepare before they are to debate their opponents,” he added.

Kijaun Millett, the Bermuda team coach, said: “We have a strong team of committed, hard-working students, and I am looking forward to them showcasing their abilities in Vietnam.”

Brice Pursell, an adjudicator who will be responsible for determining the winner of a number of debates during the tournament, said: “I am excited to be able to play a role as an adjudicator and support our talented squad and have no doubt that we will all represent Bermuda extremely well.”

Jacari Brimmer-Landy, the Bermuda Debate Society president, said: “We’d like to thank the Centennial Foundation, Allied World Assurance Company, and the Bermuda Community Foundation who have provided the funding to make Bermuda’s participation in this year’s championship possible.

“In addition, the Debate Society is grateful to RenaissanceRe, Conyers, Mosaic, AXA XL, and Somersfield Academy who aided and accommodated the team during tournaments and team meetings.”

The team comprises of Ava Gibson, 16, and Marli Spriggs, 17, who are both pupils at the Bermuda High School, Oliver Cherry, 16, and Ann Pursell, 15, both from Somersfield Academy, and Matthew Banner, 17, from Warwick Academy.

The spokesperson said, “To find out more about the Bermuda Debate Society and the National Debate Team, visit or email”

Meet the Bermuda National Debate Team

Ava Gibson

Bermuda High School

Ava GibsonAva Gibson, our team captain, has a passion for public speaking and although having only started debating recently has enjoyed a meteoric rise accumulating top speaker awards as well as undefeated wins in various local tournaments. Ava is also a student debate leader with responsibility for coaching her school’s middle school teams. Outside of debate Ava is a passionate environmental activist and was elected to the Bermuda Youth Climate Advisory Board. Ava has also played violin for 11 years, obtaining merit in her Grade 8 ABRSM exam in 2021. She has also participated in concerts with the Bermuda Philharmonic and was the leader of the Menuhin Youth Orchestra.

Marli Spriggs

Bermuda High School

Marli SpriggsThis is Marli Spriggs’ first year participating in WSDC, and having been debating since middle school she is looking to benefit from this new experience. Locally, Marli has been awarded an array of debate awards, including awards highlighting her skills in impromptu debating, and as the overall top speaker. In her spare time, Marli enjoys reading, creative writing, playing violin, tennis, badminton, practicing karate, and writing book reviews for a local newspaper, The Royal Gazette.

Olly Cherry

Somersfield Academy

Olly CherryThis will be Olly Cherry’s third year as a member of the Bermuda National Debate Team, making his first WSDC debut online in 2021. Olly has been debating for over 5 years and was a member of the winning team at the most recent international tournament held in Bermuda. Olly also received individual speaking awards for his outstanding participation in both prepared and impromptu debates. Outside of debate, Olly is heavily involved in sports including basketball, football, and running, in addition to his participation in Interact and the Bermuda Youth Climate Advisory Board.

Annie Pursell

Somersfield Academy

Annie PursellAnnie Pursell is the team’s youngest member and joined the national team last year for WSDC 2022. Annie has been participating in local tournaments for several years and has received various awards, including winning local tournaments alongside her teammates. Outside of debate, Annie swims competitively, dances, and plays the piano and guitar. As if she wasn’t busy enough with these things, Annie also finds the time to pursue her hobbies which include reading, going to the beach, and enjoying time with her friends, and family.

Matthew Banner

Warwick Academy

Matthew BannerAlthough Matthew Banner only began debating a year ago he has taken the local circuit by storm and recently won the award for 2nd overall best speaker at the most recent international tournament held in Bermuda. Matthew has found debate as an effective way to strengthen his critical thinking and public speaking skills and enjoys the camaraderie and teamwork debate requires. Matthew’s hobbies include working out and playing volleyball with his friends. Matthew is also a lover of animals and is a volunteer at the local zoo.

Coaching Team

Kijaun Millett

Team Coach

Kijaun MillettKijaun Millett, our Team Coach, has been involved in debating in some capacity for over 20 years, beginning his engagement in primary school and eventually representing Bermuda as a debater at WSDC 2010 in Doha, Qatar. Kijaun took over as coach of the national team in 2019 and enjoys being able to give back and help mentor upcoming debaters. Outside of debate, Kijaun enjoys playing tennis, spending time outdoors, and traveling to experience new places and embrace new cultures.

Rio Morton

Team Manager

Rio MortonRio Morton is our Team Manager and has been a supporter of debate for decades, finding fulfillment in assisting students’ development – both in debate and wholistically as learners. This is Rio’s first year as Team Manager but nonetheless, she has proven to be an asset to the team. She. Outside of debate, Rio has dedicated her life to embracing the joys of swimming at sunrise, reading, and traveling.

About The National Team

Bermuda National Debate TeamBermuda’s National Debate Team is a longstanding initiative for the Debate Society. Participating in international competitions, more specifically WSDC, since 1991, the national team is made of up to five of the island’s top high school debaters.

About BDS

Bermuda Debate Society Established as a charity in 1992, the Bermuda Debate Society seeks to encourage and promote debate throughout the island’s schools. BDS is a registered charity (no. 325) and is responsible for organizing national debate competitions, establishing debate programs and initiatives in schools and throughout the community, and fielding international teams.

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