March 31, 2016 By Casper Hsu and AL Mansaray (Interns from Bournemouth University, UK)
A pupil from Kenema, in the eastern region, has won this year’s individual national spelling bee competition on Tuesday at the British Council auditorium, Tower Hill, Freetown.
Alie M. Turay, 10, who attends the KDEC Primary School, displayed a dominant performance at the finals, answering all questions directed at him during the rounds – whilst his opposing companions did not answer any questions throughout the individual spelling finals.
“It feels good and I’m very happy to win this prize. My father promised to buy me something if I win so, I’m a happy,” the jubilant best speller pupil says, beaming with a smile.
St Philips Primary School, from the Western Urban District, was also crowned as the best school in the country, after a thrilling encounter with three other schools.
Church of Christ in the Western Urban District, came second whilst KDEC and FAWE, both from Kenema, took the third and fourth places, respectively.
The preliminary rounds started late last year with 100 schools competing for the rights to participate at the grand finale in Freetown.
Organisers crisscrossed the country in search of the best schools to take part in this year’s competition.
The schools were divided into Northern, Southern, Eastern, Western Rural and Western Urban regions, with each region fielding 20 schools.
After a round-robin process within their respective regions, the emerging qualifiers were summoned at the British Council to compete in the finals for the prestigious award.
In his remark, British Council country director Simon Ingram-Hill urged the participants to focus their attention in school and on their studies.
“Please remember that the most important thing is to stay in school, to complete your studies, to go to university, to achieve desired goals,” he told participants..
Spelling bee master, Moses Moore Conteh, who oversaw the preliminary process and anchored the finals, says: “What thrilled me was the fact that in Sierra Leone we do not bother about pronunciation. But even when the words were pronounced according to the seventh edition dictionary, they (participants) were also able to rise to the occasion.”
Church of Christ Primary School won first place during the Western Urban regional preliminary, and deputy head teacher Musu Walan says: “It’s very good for the children as it enables them to be fully prepared and be able to read, write and pronounce words properly.”
Mrs. Walan divulged that the organisers, as a way of testing the competency of teachers, intentionally misspelled some words sent to teachers for practice purposes.
“If you’re not an intelligent and knowledgeable teacher, you won’t be able to tell if the word is correct or not and as such, your students won’t be well prepared for this competition,” she says.
Pterodactyl, gregarious, ebullient, maelstrom, mercurial, obfuscate were among 750 words used during the two-day competition – which started on Monday.
During the finals, participants were asked to spell a word, but if they are confused, they may ask for the word’s definition or request the word to be used in a context.
The National Spelling Bee was started in 2010 by Initiative in Capacity Building Association International (ICBA) founder Isata Musu Harding, with the objectives to reduce teenage pregnancy and improve quality education in a country struggling to maintain its past glory as “the Athens of Africa”.
However, Harding says they’ve not received the required support from the government to foster the event, save for some support from organizations. “Other activities that are not pertinent to kids or women in Sierra Leone – but they do support it,” she fumed.
Girl Child Network donated some prizes and Country Director Anita Koroma believes the event is a generational change programme because “what is lacking in Sierra Leone at this moment is about quality in education”.