Five pupils from Mseki Primary School in Gugulethu found themselves in top positions at the annual spelling bee hosted by the Hillsong Africa Foundation at Century City last Thursday. The pupils were among nine schools from various townships across the province who battled for top honours.
The pupils clinched first and second prizes for Grades 5 and 6 while the Grade 7s took second place and were given medals for their efforts. In the spelling bee competition, pupils are required to spell words and also explain what they mean. Mseki Primary’s pupils answered almost every word correctly and while they described their win as a huge surprise, the school said the children had worked very hard to prepare for the competition.
The school also attributed the pupils’ success to their shared love of books.
When Vukani visited the school on Monday October 30, the pupils were still brimming with excitement. The foundation’s chief operations manager, Steffan van der Male, said the competition had been running for years now and aimed to put value on education, teachers and pupils.
He said they hoped to encourage pupils to start reading books and understand the importance of books in their development. Mr Male added that the competition aimed to create an exciting awareness for the love of words and urged pupils to expand their knowledge through reading books.
“We aim to make a meaningful impact on the development of children, irrespective of where they come from. We want to build children that can contribute immensely in development of the country,” he said.
Teacher, Zola Mqoboka, said it was not easy to prepare for the competition and that they had had to work extra hard to ensure they were ready. He said usually they were given the words a month before the competition, but this time they had been given to them only a week before the competition. Mr Mqoboka said some of the words that pupils had been asked to spell were ones he hadn’t encountered before. And so, he said, it was quite daunting.
But the school seems to have found a winning formula. Last year one of their Grade 7s won the competition and has since been awarded a scholarship by the foundation. Mr Mqoboka said this means a lot to the school and it shows that every child has the potential to win – but teachers need to take time to help them hone their skills. He said the job of a teacher was not merely to teach pupils but to play an active role in grooming them. Mr Mqoboka said the win speaks volumes about the children’s commitment and also encouraged other pupils to get involved in other school activities. He pointed out that competitions such as this one play a vital role in promoting reading and a love of books among the pupils. Mr Mqoboka said what made the win special was that the parents of the pupils had attended the competition and were able to see their children excelling. “We are proud of our pupils’ achievements. These pupils are flying the school flag high. We want to win every competition. This competition improves the literacy levels of the pupils,” he said. Chulamanco Majodina, 11, said she hadn’t expected to win and was very excited. She said before she went on stage, she had been scared but she told herself that she needed to be bold and stand tall for her school. The Grade 6 pupil said her parents were thrilled about her winning and next year she hopes to win again.