The Jabuji Debates 2015/16



The Jabuji Debates Sept 2015- March 2016 – a pioneering debating competition

This debating competition was again hosted by Eton College and sponsored by Blackwell’s, Oxford’s prestigious bookseller. It was open to 16 – 18 year old students across the UK. The Jabuji Debates are based on geo-political, environmental and social justice themes in the story of Jabujicaba

Jabujicaba is an eco-thriller set in Brazil: the country is on the verge of bankruptcy and the president is auctioning off the Amazon forest. The novel is a creative exploration of how we protect our natural world – from the value of tropical forests to mankind, to the status of indigenous peoples and their rights.  Jabujicaba is fictional but it always connects back to reality.

The debates are an exciting way for students to hone public speaking and argumentation skills, to explore geo-political and environmental issues and to learn about Brazil and its tropical rainforests.

The debates come with a ‘twist’- the members of each team must argue their position from the mindset of a character in Jabujicaba. It challenges students to develop ethical, economic and political arguments relating to the Amazon: who ‘owns’ it, who should pay to preserve it and why.

The Jabuji Debate Final 2016

Students participating in the day came from Eton College, Windsor Girls School,  Simon Langton Girls Grammar (in Kent) and the London Academy of Excellence.

Morning workshops consisted of ice-breakers, a fast paced quiz on Brazil and a hot-seating game to familiarise with characters from the novel Jabujicaba. In the afternoon Eton’s debating society coached and developed argumentation skills and ran the mini debate run off.  The mini debate motion was: “It is too late to save the Amazon rainforest”. The two teams selected for the final prepared their arguments with the support of coaches who took part in last year’s pilot Jabuji Debate.

The final debate motion was: “The needs of Brazil to develop are more important than conserving the Amazon Rainforest.”

The debate winners were chosen by the judges comprising Mr Haroon Shirwani, Head of Eton College’s Debating Society, Mr Karl Hansen, Chief Executive of the Living Rainforest and Trust for Sustainable Living and Sigrid Shreeve, author of Jabujicaba (pen name Rosa da Silva) and founder of Voices for Nature. The winners successfully argued for the motion.

Winners of the Jabuji Debates 2106


The house however chose the team which argued against so nobody ‘lost’.



Seven commendations were  also awarded for entries into the competition to students from Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School, Eton College and Windsor Girls schools.

The day was enjoyed by all –

I thought that this was an extraordinary day giving an unprecedented opportunity for young people to have an accelerated development of a range of skills. I do hope that we can continue from where we have left off in the future. Thank you for bringing this idea to us.

-Dr Robert Stephenson, Deputy Headmaster  at Eton College

What was involved?

Winning pupils  participated in the debating competition which took place all day Thursday 17 March 2016. It involved:

– Workshops to develop understanding and debating skills
– Mini-debates to select the team for the final debate
– A formal evening debate in Eton College‘s Jafar Hall between 8.45pm and 10.00pm, attended by a public audience

The competition was open to students aged 16-18 and in full time education in the UK. To enter the competition students submitted an entry to one of the statements below, consisting of a 1-2 minute video or creative piece of prose, poetry or drama (500 words max.).

Why is the rainforest:

1 ‘A living laboratory’?

2 ‘A magic place’?

3 ‘The heart of Brazil’?

Students applied as individuals, with the organising involvement of teachers  in accordance with  the Competition Rules and  Privacy Policy.

The deadline for submissions was 14 December 2015 and results were announced on 4 January 2016.

Watch the Pilot Debate video