Spelling Bee


Three of the brightest Grade Four ‘spellers’, carefully selected from 10 schools in the Northern Cape, South Africa, recently took part in a regional Spelling Bee competition funded by Droogfontein Solar Power’s Spell It literacy programme.

A Spelling Bee is a competition where contestants are asked to spell a wide selection of words, some more difficult than others. The benefits to participants are big; team building, improved grammar, a competitive spirit, increased knowledge of word origin and the ability to handle pressure.

“It’s important that our learners get the opportunity to learn and compete in a supportive and fun environment,” says Mpho Makhetha, Droogfontein Solar Power’s Plant Manager. “They gain skills such as improved memory and self-assurance through learning to speak in public.”

The event was supported and attended by parents, principals, teachers, friends and family. Each participant received a medal and a cash prize, with the overall winner taking home a trophy, a medal and R1000 cash.

“Spelling Bee competitions are an integral part of our Spell It literacy programme which has already impacted 350 000 primary learners since 2010,” says Mpho. “The aim is for Grade Four learners to have a vocabulary of between 5,000 and 10,000 words, and to be able to read at a speed of 123 words per minute.”

Spell It is ideally focused on Fourth Grade basic literacy. This is in line with international research which identifies this to be a critical transition period. Learners are moving from the ‘learning to read’ phase into the ‘reading to learn’ phase.

The programme consists of three components, namely:

  • The Vocabulary Assistance Programme (VAP)
  • Teacher Training and Capacity Building
  • Spelling Bee Competitions

The VAP is a step-by-step, fun series of card games, age-appropriate stories and interactive activities that assist learners to build on their existing knowledge while brushing up on the fundamentals of phonetics, spelling rules and word structure.

The Spell It programme is an integral part of Droogfontein Solar Power’s socio-economic development initiatives, reflecting the plant’s commitment to and support of local education.

It includes an extensive education audit in the region; an ongoing Early Childhood Development bursary programme; funding of Early Childhood Development classroom equipment; training and provision of teaching aids and an ongoing Foundation Phase Reading Coach programme.

“Our literacy programme aims to help primary school learners achieve competency at Grade Four international reading and spelling levels,” says Mpho. “The long-term goals are improved matric pass rates and learners better prepared for tertiary education and later employment.”