The beginning of the month saw the annual 2016 Mzansi Spelling Bee finals taking place in Gauteng. The culmination of months worth of competitions across the country, Habeeb Shonubi was finally crowned the national Honey Bees Champ at the Soweto Theatre on the 4th December, with Bethaba Shazi the 2016 Bumble Bees Champ, and Zameer Dada the 2016 Drones Champ. Congratulations to all of the 2016 Msanzi ‘word nerds’!
But more than a competition that takes place once a year, the Mzansi Spelling Bee (MSB) is an all year round programme aimed at encouraging children to read and improving the levels of literacy in South Africa. At a time when fewer and fewer people (both children and adults) are reading books, educators and parents need to take every step they can to encourage learning. Words are how we express ideas, and without intelligent, well communicated ideas, South African society won’t progress the way that it needs to.
Aided by technology in the form of an app that can be used on cell phones and school computers, MSB reaches across the country to children in government, private and home schooling environments. It also offers ‘Bee in a Box’ – a toolkit comprised of spelling cards, games, and a variety of other tools and ideas that will aid learning in fun and innovative ways – a kit designed to make the Spelling Bee programme a part of children’s lives all through the year. Another component of the MSB, the ‘Logophile Word Nerds’ club exposes children to the practice of learning the ‘word of the day’, and lets them share their status as Word Nerds by proudly wearing their Word Nerds badges at school on ‘Wednesday Word Days’!
While the Mzansi Spelling Bee is predominantly an English-based programme, the organisers acknowledge the need for the addition of African languages, but are currently limited in terms of resources. They also emphasise the fact that children write their examinations in English at school, so it makes sense to focus on English as the primary language, for the time being at least. That being said, African and Afrikaans words that are commonly used by South Africans from all backgrounds are included in the programme – according to MSB Director, Ms Ntsako Mkhabela, there are certain words that all children should know in order to call themselves proudly South African!
Images courtesy of the Mzansi Spelling Bee Facebook page