Two weeks ago I volunteered at the Volta Regional Spelling Bee in Ho. Each region in Ghana, except the Western and Upper West regions, has a regional spelling bee. After the dust settles the top spellers from each region compete in the Ghana National Spelling Bee in Accra. The winner in Accra will represent Ghana at the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. (not sure why it’s called “national” when there are foreign countries competing). In fact, last year the top Ghanaian speller came from the Volta Region and won himself a trip Washington D.C.
When I agreed to volunteer, it wasn’t very clear what I was going to do. I don’t have any experience with spelling bees besides elementary school class competitions and being disappointed by ESPN televising the Scripps National Spelling Bee instead of an actual sport. At the event I was thrust in being a word recorder. My job was to transcribe each contestant’s spelling of the word, mark whether the contestant asked for any hints (part of speech, definition, use in a sentence, etc.), and mark whether the contestant got the word right. I was surprised that the spelling bee coordinators entrusted this job to a random Joe off the streets who has no experience with spelling bees. Though, on the other hand, many Peace Corps volunteers have worked with the spelling bee before, so I supposed I wasn’t just any random Joe.
Coming into the spelling bee I thought it would be a grueling event comprised of many rounds. However, after the first round exactly half of the spellers were eliminated. We started with 52 and by round two we were left with 26. The words get more difficult after each round and it showed during round two. After two rounds, only five spellers remained. Since the Volta region could send at most six spellers to the national competition, the spelling bee ended after only two rounds and the five remaining spellers were invited to Accra for a chance to represent Ghana in the Scripps International Spelling Bee in Washington D.C.
The spelling bee is a great opportunity for children living in rural villages. It provides them with a fun way to learn English and gives them the opportunity to compete in regional capitals and potentially Accra. Most village children never get the opportunity to visit a large city. Hopefully I can get the schools in my village interested in the spelling bee so next year I’ll be talking about how students from Abutia Teti competed in the Regional Spelling Bee.