18 children compete in Know Your Country spelling bee

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minister of Education Nyan Gadsby-Dolly with students participating in the St Ann’s East constituency and Nalis’ Know Your Country spelling bee competition at the National Library’s headquarters, Abercromby Street, Port of Spain on Monday. – AYANNA KINSALE

Eighteen schoolchildren took part in a Know Your Country spelling bee for primary schools in St Ann’s East, held in collaboration with the National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS), on Monday morning.

The competition was an initiative of Education Minister and MP for the constituency Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, to promote literacy.

The spelling bee consisted of words relating to TT and its culture.

Gadsby-Dolly said, “To facilitate this is a pleasure for us, because it is us adding our voice as a constituency to positive engagement, literacy and to ensuring that our children have something to look forward to that will help them in their school life. In my days of primary school, these competitions were a big part of my enjoyment, and so it is a pleasure to add that to the educational landscape in St Ann’s.”

Director of the Educational Library Services Division Primatie Persad said, “Through this competition, students have the opportunity to learn more about our country and its history and culture in a fun and educational setting.

“We hope students develop a sense of respect and appreciation for our rich, diverse cultural heritage and by extension, develop a sense of national pride.”

Eighteen students between nine and 12, from nine primary schools, participated in the spelling competition ­­– two from each school.

Students nervously waited as they lined up for their names to be called to go up on stage to be given their word to spell. Each student had 30 seconds to spell each word. Local words such as kurma, guava, accra, buljol, souse, jhandi and Blanchisseuse were given.

With each word spelt correctly, the children smiled in relief and pride as they walked back to rejoin the line. When a word was spelt incorrectly, the student was eliminated and sadly walked back to his or her seat.

It took 14 rounds to eliminate all but the finalists, when a supplementary list of words was given. The final five students were T’shawn Mitchell, Aliya Eustache, Meaghan John, Hope Clement and Damari Dhanoolal.

The supplementary list consisted of words that had not been given to the students to learn beforehand, so they had to use their critical thinking and listening skills to spell them.

Damari Dhanoolal of Maracas RC Primary School was the last student standing and winner of the competition.

He told Newsday he felt “great” about his victory, and gave encouraging advice to other students wishing to follow in his footsteps: “Revise with whoever is close to you and always be confident of yourself…always.”

Dhanoolal’s parents played a significant role in helping their son prepare for the competition. His teacher, Melissa O’Brian, said, “I must commend his parents, who took that role to ensure that he learnt the words. His parents were really instrumental in what he did today.”

Sadly, his parents were unable to attend the competition.

At the end, all the students were awarded for their bravery and participation.