Eleventh Annual National Spelling Bee
- Women & Gender
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With increasing globalization, fluency in English is necessary to compete in the global economy. It's also important that girls have an equal opportunity to compete in this economy. Students in Benin who master the English language have more opportunities to continue with post-secondary education and to secure a stable career. This is especially true for girls, who must overcome significantly greater barriers to achieve independence and prosperity.
The 11th annual National English Spelling Bee will be held in northern Benin in June. In addition to encouraging students to improve their English skills in local clubs throughout the school year, this competition brings together the hardest working students to refine their English skills.
Participating volunteers will work with school directors and teachers to hold Regional spelling bees, whose winners will attend the National Bee. The community will provide lodging, facilitate activities, and perform services for the students (serving meals, chaperoning, etc.). Grant money will support administrative costs such as transportation, meals, materials, and prizes for the competitors. having an equal number of girls and boys compete ensures that girls are active in local English clubs and that they receive equal recognition at the competition. By participating in the Spelling Bee, students will refine their English skills as well as their life skills. Students will learn about building self-esteem, allyship with girls, and addressing gender-based violence, all of which are critical issues for girls in Benin. Thus, these life skills will surely help them break barriers to their education. Moreover, time spent preparing for the Bee will keep students intellectually active in a safe and healthy environment outside school. Preparation will motivate all students participating in English clubs, including those who aren't selected to compete at the national level.
The driving force behind the National Spelling Bee is the desire of motivated students in communities across Benin to improve their English skills. Each secondary school has an English curriculum and supports English teachers and extracurricular activities involving the development of language skills.
Volunteers will work with selected English teacher counterparts to hold English clubs and a local spelling bee. Every local spelling bee is initiated, hosted, and funded by the community. The competition is usually held in youth centers or at secondary schools under the same rules that will be in effect at the National Spelling Bee. Community members will conduct the local bees and select winners, with the participation of volunteers to ensure competition rules were followed. Students will come to the National Spelling Bee with the full support and pride of their schools and their communities. Winners of local bees will compete in regional bees, which will be conducted alongside host-country nationals. The previous National Spelling Bees were held in Natitingou with the support of that community and were huge successes. The government and education officials involved will work closely with the volunteers to organize the event and show their support by attending the Bee.
This year, we have worked with local teachers to improve the rules and procedures of the National Spelling Bee. Local teachers will create the sentences that will be used in the National Spelling Bee. A homologue will also read the words during the competition. In this way, host country nationals have control over the process of the National Spelling Bee.
In addition, volunteers will work with counterparts to lead sessions on gender equality, sexual health, and malaria. Counterparts will be encouraged to lead these sessions on their own so that they can replicate the process in their own communities. The partnership of volunteers and host country nationals will lead to a successful National Spelling Bee.
The National Spelling Bee will build confidence and encourage scholastic achievement in Beninese students, who will then serve as role models to their peers. They will share their improved understanding of English and gender injustices with those around them in their communities. English clubs started by volunteers will provide a formal setting for this exchange. The continuation of these clubs, and even potential local Bees, requires no funding and is therefore sustainable. Local counterparts will be able to maintain them after their volunteers' departures.
With each National Spelling Bee, we involve more communities around Benin. Continuing to involve volunteers from different parts of the country allows the spelling bee to reach new areas and train host country nationals in leading their own competitions. We have already seen the sustainability of local spelling bees every year without volunteer involvement. By continuing to invite volunteers from villages around Benin, spelling bees will continue to become a routine part of the school year.
Since the first annual National Spelling Bee, at least sixty counterparts have participated in the event. The Spelling Bee creates the opportunity for host country nationals to meet teachers from other areas of Benin and exchange contacts. After the Spelling Bee is over, these teachers remain in contact and discuss best practices. As we continue to train and involve host country nationals, with time the Spelling Bee will be able to function without volunteer involvement.
To improve sustainability, volunteers can create a database of all counterparts that have participated in the National Spelling Bee. Next year, the Spelling Bee can shift towards inviting past counterparts that participated and allow them to take on more of a leadership role. To make the Spelling Bee more sustainable and affordable in the future, there will be a shift towards regional tournaments. This will reduce the cost and number of participants in the National Spelling Bee making it more affordable and sustainable.