Winning school’s pupils put in hours of work

2012-12-03 00:00

THE word was “minuscule” but the event was huge.

About 400 pupils, teachers and supporters crammed the City of uMhlathuze Auditorium on Saturday to watch pupils from disadvantaged schools battle it out in the third annual Zululand Spelling Bee.

The competition works on a knock-out basis, with only the best spellers making it through to the final round. Each contestant gets a chance to spell a word.

This year, there were four rounds and an additional bonus words section, which saw the top five finalists having to spell and define some of the most difficult words in the English language.

It was eventually grade 10 pupil Thabiso Mbatha (16), from Ikhandlela High School in eSikhawini, who took the coveted title and a big haul of prizes worth R40 000 by being able to spell the knock-out word — minuscule.

Another Ikhandlela High School pupil, Monitor Nyawo, won third place.

Thobeka Mjiyakho, from Hluma Secondary School, took second place, winning cash and books for herself and her school.

Thobeka’s English teacher, Thembi Ndlovu, was rewarded with R2 500 for the extra hours she put into tutoring her charge.

For their hard work in ensuring their pupils took top place, Ikhandlela High School received R100 000 worth of school upgrades sponsored by Resilient Property Group, R15 000 in books and their English tutor, Madoda Mlambo, was rewarded with cash.

“I am still speechless,” Mlambo told The Witness.

“When I found out what a spelling bee was, I thought the expectations were unrealistic. I thought no one person could ever learn all of these thousands of words. But then one of my pupils told me his sister had won last year, so I met with the winner, Eunice Shumba, and her family, and she told me how the process works.

“We tutored for three hours a day extra. Thabiso had learnt all the words in the first two weeks of tutoring. He inspired me to take this up. I always tell my kids if you want to have good things come from your brain, you need to put good things into your brain.

“We are hoping to build a fully stocked media centre with the R100 000 prize money,” he said.

Thabiso said he was proud of his achievement and dedicated the win to the memory of his late father, Patric Themba Mbatha.

“There were people who said I could never do this, but that just made me more determined to achieve it,” he said.

“I lost my dad in July, which was sad, but he is now an angel looking down on me. My inspiration for the competition was last year’s winner, Eunice Shumba,” he said, adding he downloaded photos of her spelling words from a website, and she remained his inspiration while he studied.

“I was also very inspired by the movie Akeelah and The Bee. I learnt all the words in 16 days,” he said.

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