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South Sudanese team makes historic debut at African Spelling Bee

A five-member team from the South Sudan National Spelling Bee has participated in the prestigious African Spelling Bee for the first time, marking a significant and memorable moment in the country’s spelling competition history.

The 2023 competition, the 6th edition of the African Spelling Bee, was hosted by Uganda Spelling Bee in the capital, Kampala, from the 6th to 10th December 2023, with 48 spellers from 11 participating countries including Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, South Sudan, Cote d’Ivoire, among others.

Excellence Foundation for South Sudan, a nonprofit organisation, sent the team in close collaboration with Juba Diplomatic and Alekma Academy school administrators whose pupils had the best spellers during the Juba Primary Schools Mini Competition 2023.

South Sudan couldn’t scoop any awards, but as first-timers, the team gained valuable experience that will shape its participation at the 7th African Spelling Bee in Nigeria next year,” Emmanuel Bida Thomas, the foundation’s program manager, said.

Bida says that the junior category winners are from South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe, whereas the senior category winners are from Nigeria, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe. There were only three winners per category.

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,” Speller Habiba Mui Jacob said upon her return to Juba.

She said that she was thankful for having been given the opportunity to participate with other learners from across Africa while appreciating the support from her teachers and that of the Excellence Foundation for South Sudan.

For his part, Speller Deng Majak said, “It was tense, and I was somehow scared because of all the new faces.” Deng says the competition has taught him that reading books is a strong tool for success and a regulator of opportunities.

The five team members that travelled to Kampala to represent South Sudan, and returned home on Monday, 11th December 2023, are Daniel Oleke, a teacher from Juba Diplomatic Primary School, Gabriel Majok Ajang-Amal, a teacher from Alekma Academy, Akoy Lual Dual, a junior speller from Alekma Academy, Habiba Mui Jacob a senior speller from Juba Diplomatic Primary School, and Deng Majak a senior speller from Juba Diplomatic Primary School becoming the first South Sudanese teachers and spellers to make a debut in this continental competition according to the African Spelling Bee organisers.

Gabriel Majok, head teacher at Alekma Academy, thanks everyone for the support and encouragement. “All in all, things will certainly not be the same again after this experience,” he affirmed.

The African Spelling Bee, which was initially expected to take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, but was moved to Kampala at the 11th hour due to challenges beyond the organiser’s control, will take place in Nigeria next year.

South Sudan’s entry into the prestigious African spelling competition is important and unique. Still, participating pupils faced challenges that included Nervousness – the spellers were nervous, especially being in front of a new International audience and Semantics resulting from differences in the accent – spelling largely depends on how the speller grasps the pronunciation of the spelling master.

A country representative at academic international competitions like the African Spelling Bee provides an Avenue to engage and learn from the experiences of like-minded people and makes the culture of Spelling widespread to allow for greater awareness among South Sudanese schools, the Excellence Foundation for South Sudan said in a statement extended to this publication as it plans to maintain consistent participation in the African Spelling Bee and to expand the South Sudan Spelling Bee beyond Juba.

The African Spelling Bee and the South Sudan National Spelling Bee share a common goal of fostering a vibrant culture of reading and writing.

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