A gap that needs to be closed ASAP

2011-01-28 07:44

The Scripps National Spelling Bee draws children from across the US.

They compete at intense local-level spelling bees to earn the privilege of attending the national event, which attracts enough attention to justify being broadcast on major networks like sports channel ESPN.

The film Akeelah And The Bee gave the rest of the world insight into how big a deal this event has become, and how competitive it actually gets.

Children have to learn the meaning and origins of words to assist them in learning and remembering how to spell.

The spelling bee now reaches beyond the US and is run in countries such as the Bahamas, Canada, Ghana, Jamaica, Liberia, New Zealand and South Korea.

When my son was two weeks old, I started reciting the alphabet to him and counting to 10.

I believe numbers and the alphabet are the foundation to engaging with anything in life, so I thought it might help to give him a foundation.

Whether it works or not, only time will tell, but he does love books.

Every year since 1989, a group of high school children have come together to represent their countries at the International Olympiad of Informatics.

They have to compete in their own countries to get the privilege of making the four-person team to attend.

It isn’t the most prominent event in the world, but these teenagers will, more than likely, influence a great deal of our lives and our future.

The Olympiad is a computer coding competition where, over two days, competitors have to create programs to solve mathematical and real-world problems.

The two-time winner of the Olympiad in the past two years is 15-year-old Belarusian Gennady Korotkevich, who first entered when he was 11 years old.

South Africa is a member and has participated in the Olympiad.

The South African Computer Olympiad is one of the oldest in the world, having started in 1984.

They have decent sponsorship and run a competition that draws up to 3 000 students.

I am fortunate enough to own a television, a smartphone and a laptop.

My three-year-old son loves sitting with my iPhone, flipping through screens, playing games, taking pictures and “reading” Dr Seuss books.

I have friends with iPads whose children will draw pictures, type and do all kinds of things on the device.

This puts them at an advantage over the majority of children in this country.

South Africa needs to compete on a global level.

We have a history that oppressed millions of people and today we have to find ways of bringing millions of young South Africans to a level where they can compete.

The gap between the haves and the have-nots will continue to grow until we are able to create platforms like spelling bees and coding competitions.

The children of the privileged have access that will continuously put them at an advantage, and the gap will keep growing.

But there is no future unless we create opportunities for the majority.

» Baffoe is the editor of Destiny Man

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