Spelling Bee Botswana (SBB) opened a new chapter in its annals last Thursday with launch of the “Spelling Bee Handbook”.
The 86-page book is the work of a collaboration between SBB and a group of passionate Dr’s from the University of Botswana English Department, powered by Lucara Botswana (LB).
The book launch comes from the executive of SBB and has dubbed PROJECT REACH, with the goal being to “reach” the hearts of as many students as possible. In such challenging times, the book will support them along their educational journey. The Spelling Bee handbook deals extensively with the basic tenets of literacy by exploring phonics, etymology and semantics.
SBB facilitates competitions where contestants, usually children, are to spell certain words correctly after hearing their pronunciation. Founded in 2012, SBB is a youth founded and run entity aimed at enabling students to get a better grasp of the English language.
Tshepang Thibedi, founder and chairperson of SBB, telling the tale of how the group began, said the Ministry of Basic Education (MOBE) has been their lifeline. “If it wasn’t for them to open their doors to us, we wouldn’t be here today celebrating nine years with the MOBE,” she said.
Inspired by the movie Akeelah and the Bee to found SBB, Thibedi stated “In 2015, we extended the invitation to all the regions in Botswana, that is to say, we are now in all the ten regions in Botswana.” Today, SBB has over 150 schools as members, both from primary, junior and senior categories, both government and private schools. “In the year 2016, we collaborated with other like-minded organizations in Africa to form the first-ever African Spelling Bee (ASB), and I am glad to mention that SBB has never missed the ASB,” she said with elation.
Present at the book launch was the Director of MOBE’s Department of Basic Education, Ndondo Koolese in the stead of basic education minister, Fidelis Molao. Koolese considers the book a valuable addition to the depository of learning materials in Botswana’s schools and libraries.
“The MOBE, I must emphasize, embraces SBB as a strategic partner in the provision of education for the people of this country,” he said. Koolese stated that the ministry started collaborating with SBB for some years before signing a two-year MoU.
“Our signing of the MoU with SBB was a clear indication of our desire not only to benefit from the talent and exuberance of young people but to also use the opportunity to nurture and support that talent,” the basic education director said. He said the ministry is committed to working with any young person who demonstrates the desire, ability and innovativeness towards the development of education in this country.
“The book is purposefully designed for self-study, which renders it a remedy particularly during this time of Covid-19 where learners have to a lot of study on their own,” he commended. Calling on SBB to aggressively market the book, Koolese also pledged the support of the basic education ministry in assisting SBB to distribute the book in schools.
Boitumelo Maoketsa, chief financial officer at LB attended on behalf of Naseem Lahri, the managing director of LB. Maoketsa said one of the most crucial elements of LB operations is collaborating with the community through mutually beneficial partnerships. Such collaborations are what brought LB and SBB, MOBE together.
“SBB continues to raise the bar of literacy development. We are proud beyond measure to be able to support such fantastic work and see tangible results,” she said. LB subscribes to 10 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG) and partnering with SBB helps the company measure itself on SDG 4 on quality education, which aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
LB has already sponsored 2 500 books, in addition to covering all administrative costs of project reach. SBB Head of Publicity Tapiwa Anafasi added: “LB has sponsored the first phase of the book, our intention is to by the end of this year at least distribute 30 000.” Anafasi said as SBB they intend to give the book to students for free.
In 2019, driving towards inclusive education, SBB held its first national competitions for deaf and visually impaired students in collaboration with LB1. The competition had 20 contestants of which five were visually impaired students from Linchwe and 15 deaf students from other schools. Koolese said that this is one of SBB’s most notable feats.
“It is also worth mentioning that one of SBB’s commendable initiatives is the spelling bee competition for learners with hearing impairments. This to me has been your groundbreaking initiative,” he said. This critical milestone achievement had even been demonstrated during the book launch with the whole ceremony interpreted in sign language for 2017 SBB’s champion Kopo Chiliwa. In 2020, SBB held no competitions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The same might apply for this year, which is why the organisation is beginning the year by launching the spelling bee handbook.
Through LB and the triad of authors, Dr. Naledi Kgolo, Dr. Boikanyego Sebina and Dr. Gaobilwe Ramaeba, the handbook came to life. The triad of English professors regards the book as a formidable addition to the variety of resources at the disposal of students. The three ladies also believe the more tools students have, the better they stand a chance of getting it right.