A team of five comprising two teachers and three spellers from the South Sudan National Spelling Bee made history as they participated in the prestigious African Spelling Bee for the first time. The 6th edition of the African Spelling Bee took place in Kampala, Uganda, from 6th to 10th December 2023 and featured 48 spellers from 11 participating countries, including South Sudan.
The team representing South Sudan was sent by the Excellence Foundation for South Sudan, a nonprofit organisation, in partnership with Juba Diplomatic and Alekma Academy school administrators. These spellers had emerged as the top performers during the Juba Primary Schools Mini Competition 2023.
“Although South Sudan’s team did not secure any awards, their participation as first-timers provided them with invaluable experience, which will shape their future involvement in the 7th African Spelling Bee in Nigeria next year,” stated Emmanuel Bida Thomas, the program manager of the Excellence Foundation for South Sudan.
The junior category winners hailed from South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, while the senior category winners were from Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe, with three winners per category.
Upon her return to Juba, senior speller Habiba Mui Jacob expressed her joy, stating, “I am full of joy and had an unforgettable pleasant experience during my participation at the African Spelling Bee 2023 in the name of my country, South Sudan,” She expressed gratitude for the support from her teachers and the Excellence Foundation for South Sudan.
Deng Majak, another senior speller, shared his experience, saying, “It was tense, and I was somehow scared because of all the new faces.” He emphasized that the competition taught him the significance of reading as a tool for success and a gateway to opportunities.
According to the African Spelling Bee organisers, the South Sudanese team, including teachers Daniel Oleke and Gabriel Majok Ajang-Amal, returned home on Monday, 11th December 2023, marking a milestone as the first representative from South Sudan to participate in this continental competition.
Gabriel Majok, head teacher at Alekma Academy, expressed gratitude for the overwhelming support. “All in all, things will certainly not be the same again after this experience,” he remarked.
Despite challenges such as nervousness from being in front of an international audience and differences in accents affecting spelling, South Sudan’s entry into the prestigious African spelling competition is a significant and unique achievement.
The Excellence Foundation for South Sudan emphasised the importance of South Sudan’s participation in international academic competitions, inviting engagement and learning opportunities and aiming to promote a culture of spelling within South Sudanese schools. Additionally, the foundation reaffirmed its commitment to consistent participation in the African Spelling Bee and expanding the South Sudan Spelling Bee beyond Juba.
The African Spelling Bee and the South Sudan National Spelling Bee share a common goal of promoting a vibrant culture of reading and writing.