Lots of learning ahead of tough spelling bee

2012-11-26 00:00

THE Zululand Spelling Bee, now in its third year and open to local Grade 10 and 11 pupils, takes place on Saturday at the City of uMhlathuze auditorium in Richards Bay.

Learners, teachers and schools have been putting in lots of extra hours to ensure their school comes out tops.

Winner of last year’s competition, Eunice Shumba, now in matric, said: “This competition made me a better person. I now have a personal library because of all of the books I won, and I have a deeper understanding of the English language. I also came out of the competition with a desire to learn more and realised that you have to work really, really, really hard to be the best.”

Shumba attends Hlamvana SS School in eSikhawini. “For weeks after the competition people from the eSikhawini community were stopping me in the streets and telling me how I had made the community proud,” she said.

“This was a massive thing for my school, which was once seen as inferior. We went from zero to hero after the competition. Even the 2012 class can now see what can be done through hard work,” she said.

Last year’s third place winner, Linda Sizakele from Isiphephelo High in KwaMbonambi, has been tutoring spellers after school for the past year. She is also currently writing her matric.

Second-placed learner from last year, Nokuthula Dube, will again be be competing this year, as a Grade 11 pupil.

“I am just putting my head down and learning, learning, learning. I want this,” she said.

The format of the competition is simple: Learners are supplied with about 3 000 words this year and given just over a month to learn them. They then gather at the auditorium in a knock-out that will see the winner walking away with R10  000 cash, R10 000 in books, a R10 000 bursary and a driving course.

“It’s a kick-start for the learner, and it is a way of encouraging excellence amongst young people, who are often told to lower their expectations because they come from deeply impoverished areas.

“That is unacceptable. Poverty doesn’t mean you lack the ability to learn or excel,” said Zululand Fever’s managing director, Desiree Erasmus. The Fever hosts the event.

“We use European university level words, so this is not a walk in the park; it’s a tough gig. When we ran the first competition, some of our sponsors told us the words would be too hard. We said ‘Look, you have given massive amounts in prizes and people are always saying this country has a weak work ethic. Let’s make these kids work for their rewards.’ They agreed.” she said.

“We celebrate teachers and schools that are going above and beyond the call of duty. This year, a national sponsor has come on board with a prize of R100 000 worth of renovations for the school of the winning speller. The money will be used to upgrade school facilities and construct or upgrade the school library,” she said.

The library is then stocked by another sponsor.

The second and third placed learners also receive cash, book and bursary prizes and their schools receive cash and book prizes.

“If the private sector can do something to get our kids reading and providing books, we have to. There is no time to wait on government, which is inundated; it is our obligation to ensure we mould tomorrow’s leaders and independent thinkers by giving them access to the published words of past and present leaders and thinkers,” she said.

Members of the public will be allowed into the Auditorium from 10.30 am onwards. The spelling bee is an all-day event.

• zulunews1@feveronline.co.za

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