Lenato is counted amongst the most hardworking learners at Manyamba Primary School in Mulanje. Since he started school, the Standard Seven learner has always been among the top performing in his class. However, despite being among the best, he has consistently struggled in languages –especially English.
According to records, Lenato's reading and writing has often averaged a score of 40% in examinations. “I used to struggle to read and write with comprehension, and my performance was poor”, says the aspiring doctor. At present, Lenato is slowly turning into an English genius, thanks to World Vision’s spelling bee initiative.
This is a national competition that World Vision has helped energise in Malawi by working with different partners. Through the platform, learners from different schools in Malawi meet to contest. World Vision is building the capacity of rural schools and sponsors the awards given, all the way to the national phase. Currently, World Vision is conducting a spelling contest targeting schools for both schools in its Area Programmes and those out of it across the country to help learners attain age-appropriate literacy skills.
During the spelling bee qualifiers involving six schools with thirteen participants, Lenato emerged top having spelt all words correctly.
“We partnered with the spelling bee group and other groups to help learners develop their literacy skills after noticing their challenges in reading and writing”, says World Vision's Technical Programme Manager, Thandeka Nkhonde.
A recent survey conducted by World Vision revealed that only 16% of Grade Three learners are able to read and write with comprehension. The spelling bee has gone on to complement World Vision’s 'Unlock Literacy' intervention, which provides reading materials for learners and urges parents and guardians to support them with the reading process.
“The competition is motivating learners and it is improving their performance. Because the learners want to do better in the contest, they are now reading supplementary books, which is enriching their understanding of written and spoken words", says Robin Kasitomu, Headteacher at Manyamba Primary School.
With an established spelling competition, Manyamba Primary School formed a Spelling Bee Club in 2020 with Lenato among the founding members. “I was encouraged to join the club, and later on, the competition after seeing that those taking part were improving in their performance”, says the young genius.
Inspired the competition, Lenato is reading more books and steadily improving. “Now I’ve been selected to represent my school in the [national] spelling bee this year, and I am practicing harder so that I compete at the international level. My practice involves a lot of reading and reciting”, adds Lenato.
In Mulanje, World Vision is implementing the initiative in Limbuli Education Zone. Education authorities in the district attest that since the coming in of the initiative, performance of the zone in Primary School Leaving Certificate Examinations (PSLCE) has improved.
“For your own information, because of the positive impact of the spelling bee, the teacher whose students got the highest number of A-grades in PSLCE in Mulanje came from this zone. So it motivates not only the learners but the teachers too!”, revealed Cryton Tambala, Chief Education Officer for Mulanje District Education Office.