2006-05-11 / Schools
NUI School prevails in mock trial competition
BY CHRIS GAETANO
SOUTH BRUNSWICK - Noor-Ul-Iman School's mock trial team had no objections to their first victory at the Middlesex County Bar Association's mock trial competition.
The team, composed of nearly one-third of the entire high school population of 48, was the winner of the Feb. 9 competition, defeating teams from five other schools. On Wednesday, they were honored by the Middlesex County Bar Association with a banquet.
Mock trial is a popular school activity where students take the role of a legal team and argue either for the defense or prosecution side of a fictional court case. It involves a lot of preparatory work, as team members don't know which side they will be arguing on behalf of until a coin toss before the trial begins.
The local Islamic school's team is only three years old, having formed when the coach, Sufia Azmat, heard of the activity when visiting family in Illinois.
Getting the team started was a challenge, according to Azmat, because of the relatively low population of the high school. As its performance has improved over the years (the team won one match in last year's competition), more interest in the team has developed. This year more people were interested in joining than there were slots available.
"In the past, we weren't able to make it this far, though last year, we won one round and lost another. Considering the team is only three years old, [this year's win is] a great victory for them," said Azmat, who teaches English as well as coaches the team.
The team actually has something of a handicap other schools don't. While many other schools begin to prepare in October, Noor-Ul-Iman's team must begin meeting in November, after the holy holiday of Ramadan is finished.
"It's difficult getting the kids together for an after-school activity during that time," said Azmat.
Since November, the team met and prepared about 10 times before the last competition on Feb. 9.
The case they were enacting involved a theoretical reality television show where a participant died. Later, the host of that show is murdered and the wife of the participant who died is the prime suspect. Students had to argue, alternately, for her defense and for the prosecution.
While Azmat said the experience was challenging for the students, it was definitely a great learning experience for them.
"We kind of jumped right into it, and as you can see, it really did pay off. It's a great learning experience - they just learned so much in terms of confidence and public speaking, and how the law works. It's something they wouldn't get anywhere else," said Azmat.