Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki

Nine pupils recently won amazing prizes at the spelling bee contest for pupils in public and private primary and secondary schools in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital.

The contest, organised by Sweetest Kiddies’ Empire, was grouped into three age brackets – six-eight, nine to 11 and 12-16 – to enable the children have a level playing ground to compete.

Nine winners emerged, as there were three winners in each of the three categories of the contest held at the Women’s Development Centre, Abakaliki.

Contestants from Redeemers International School, Abakaliki clinched the first and third positions while the second position went to Ebonyi State University Nursery and Primary School in the six-to eight age bracket.

For contestants aged nine to 11, years, Blessed Martins International School took the first and second positions, while for the contestants aged 12-16 years, the first position went to Jesus with Children Model School, Abakaliki.

Oyetunji Joy Ayomide, Prosper Amiara Ogbu, and Gamaliel Afamefula took first, second and third respectively for the age bracket of 6-8 years.

For the 9-11 years age bracket, Offia Divine Favour Chiemera, Ezechukwu Princess Chiamaka, and Chindi-Ezike Joseph took the first, second and third positions while Obetta Success Chinecherem, Chinenye Nwachukwu, and Odabe Oluebube Elizabeth took first, second and third positions for 12-16 years category.

Across board, first position winners went home with N12, 000 each; second position winners went home with N9, 000 each while the third position got N7, 000 each.

Creative Director of Sweetest Kiddies’ Empire, Mrs Nikita Ogban, said the competition was organised to help the pupils.

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Ogban said: “I have taught in both public and private schools in Calabar and Abakaliki. I realised that the Nigerian child has serious challenge with the pronunciation of words, using correct tenses in words, making correct sentences and then, most importantly, the spelling of words. They also don’t have a large vocabulary of words to pick from. So, I decided to give back to the Nigerian society.

“It is largely to build their self confidence to stand before the people and speak; to believe more in themselves.

“It is also to build their ability to store words; ability to work under pressure even as kids because as they are growing up, they will realize that life will bring in challenges and then, most importantly, how to read because a child that can spell will be able to read.

“And a child that can read will be able to understand what he or she was being taught in class and given as homework and every other thing patterning school.”

She said previous editions of the competition had been held in Calabar in 2017, Abakaliki in May 2018 and another in Calabar in November, 2018.

She said her organisation would sponsor winners of the two editions held in Calabar to a national contest in Lagos from where they would proceed to Washington DC, United States if they win the national contest.

But the winners in Abakaliki won’t have such opportunities yet. Hear her: “For the two editions I have done here in Abakaliki, I am not ready yet to send the winners to the national body. I have not really seen a strong spelling strength in those kids because I know what happens at the national spelling bee.

“The words I use here in Abakaliki, parents on the WhatsApp platform complain that the words are difficult. Only few parents caution them not to say that. That is why Ebonyi State is still backward educationally. You can’t be complaining that a child of six to eight years cannot spell a word like diagram. No, they should.

“As the competition advances, it gets tough. It can’t be the same. Then, the words I use here in Abakaliki, I bring them down. The words I use for kids of nine to 11 years in Abakaliki are the words I use in Calabar for six to eight years. So, I cannot send a child here for the national contest. That will be a waste of money because I know what that child is going to face.

Some of the winners and the parents expressed happiness over the contest and commended the organisers even as they urged that it should be sustained for the benefit of other school children.