Spelling Bee partners and Reading Club organisers converged at the DBE in Pretoria on 24 May 2017 to attend a briefing session on the status of the 2017 National Spelling Bee Competition, as well as to discuss strategies to improve the implementation of reading clubs in schools and communities. This flagship programme, which is linked to the Read to Lead Campaign, was initiated to encourage a culture of reading, whilst assisting learners to improve their English language skills in learning and teaching. Schools from across all nine provinces have already registered to compete in this year’s Competition, which will be hosted at the University of South Africa (UNISA) on 23 September 2017.
Participants are expected to learn several English words, which they might be requested to spell at various levels of the Competition. National Spelling Bee Co-ordinator, Mr Potledi Ngoepe, said that the DBE has made material available on its website and appeals to all participants to read this material to increase their vocabulary. Ngoepe further indicated that the only way learners can become experts in literacy is through the support of teachers, parents and community members: “Learners should take responsibility and read more books to become better spellers. The Competition is about providing assistance to learners to improve their literacy skills to excel academically”.
The DBE and PEDs are conducting regular workshops to empower approximately 400 provincial officials to establish and sustain reading clubs in their respective provinces. Mr Ngoepe remarked that, “Reading clubs instil a reading habit amongst learners in the Foundation and the Intermediate Phases. We therefore encourage all learners, especially learners with special needs, to join reading club programmes to improve their academic performance through fun activities”.
Registration for the 2017 National Spelling Bee Championships closed on 29 April 2017 and provinces are currently busy with district elimination sessions. The Provincial Spelling Bee Competitions will have been completed by 15 September 2017. All the provincial winners will then proceed to the last phase of the Competition, the National Championships.
Mr Ngoepe acknowledged the valuable contribution made by the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC), in partnership with the Spelling Bee implementers since the Competition was launched during 2014. These include the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT), UNISA, Monash University and the South African National Council for the Blind (SANCB).