By Mpho Shelile

MASERU – To cultivate a reading culture in the young minds, and to create a platform that would make education attractive and a worthy adventure to embark on, Econet Telecom Lesotho, Post bank and Metropolitan joint hands to sponsor a national spelling bee with the aim of promoting educational excellence and adding value to intellectualism through contests.

Mr. Mokone Mapharisa who is the events and marketing director of the spelling bee association of Lesotho (SBALE) stated that this competition was established in 2017 and that this year’s National Spelling Bee serves as the apex of a series of local and regional bees in which mostly Lesotho students in grades below high school level and high school students participate together. It is held annually in every district of Lesotho, so this year was in Maseru.

In a world that often seems to prioritize technology and fast-paced communication, spelling bees stand as a testament to the enduring importance of language and literacy. These captivating competitions continue to captivate audiences and participants alike, highlighting the beauty and complexity of the English language. And that we got to witness again this year as we delved in the fascinating world of spelling bees, exploring their history, significance, and the remarkable journeys of young spellers who aspire to be champions.

The origins of spelling bees can be traced back to the early American colonies, where students gathered to test their knowledge of words and hone their spelling skills. The term “spelling bee” itself is believed to have emerged in the 19th century. These contests quickly gained popularity, evolving from informal classroom exercises into organized competitions. Competition which is pivoted on two key missions of the academy

Over time, spelling bees have grown to become an ideal part of culture, celebrated by students for their ability to foster a deep appreciation for language, spelling bees serve several important purposes, beyond being a mere showcase of language expertise. “We at SBALE thought why not go out of our way to make sure our students get to be part of spelling bee competitions globally”, stated Mokoena.   

Here are some of the key reasons why spelling bees continue to hold significance, Vocabulary Enrichment, Participation in spelling bees encourages young learners to expand their vocabulary, explore word origins, and develop a deeper understanding of language. Improved Communication, Strong spelling skills contribute to effective communication, both in written and spoken forms. This, in turn, enhances overall literacy. Confidence Building: Spelling bee contestants often experience increased self-confidence as they master challenging words and compete on stage, ultimately benefiting them in other aspects of life.

The journey to spelling bee success is not for the faint hearted. Participants often spend countless hours studying word lists, memorizing word origins, and perfecting their spelling techniques. The road to this year’s Spelling Bee, for example, involves local, regional, and national competitions, with spellers advancing through each level.

Spelling bees, steeped in tradition and history, continue to shine a spotlight on the beauty and                complexity of the English language. They celebrate the dedication and determination of young spellers who immerse themselves in the world of words. Beyond their educational value, spelling bees inspire us all to appreciate the power of language, the importance of literacy, and the boundless potential of the human mind.

“Just like every event, there were some challenges that came with this competition, finding accommodation for the students who came from far, the shirts of the teachers were not delivered on time, and during the competition some of the student did copy for participants which caused us to delay with the competition since we had to pause for an hour or so to get to the bottom of things and sadly disqualify other students.” Mr. Mokone concluded   

Spelling bee, also called spelling match, or spelldown players are eliminated when they misspell a word and the last remaining eight players will be going to Limpopo where six of our players will be going to Ethiopia. One of the students, Katleho Noosi stated that this year’s competition was very tight, “I am proud of myself … I just like knowing that I’m able to do it. My parents are going to be really happy with this and I believe I am going to make it to Ethiopia”, words she uttered after her victory.