Uganda Spelling Bee is built off the UK and US Spelling Bee models, however with some changes, like our focus on deliberately chosen positive words. My colleagues and I got to learn about Spelling Bee through a movie - "Akeelah and the Bee" and thought it would be very helpful if we started something like that in Uganda to enable children in school improve their vocabulary and understanding of concepts so they can pass standardised exams and stay in school. 52% of Uganda's population of 36 million people is children below the age of 15. Most of them are in primary school and what is disheartening is that over 50% are not completing this level of education on time, partly because they have to repeat a class or because they dropped out. According to research by Uwezo - an organisation aimed at improving literacy and numeracy in East Africa, Uganda scores very low on literacy compared to Kenya and Tanzania, with primary seven pupils being unable to answer primary two questions. This low competence, in addition to other reasons, makes several students to drop out of school.
At the Uganda Spelling Bee, we believe that if we can help children to learn words, their meanings and how to use them in sentences, then they will be able to understand concepts better and therefore pass standardised exams and be able to stay in school longer. Our desire is to create a competitive learning environment for these children as well as give them an opportunity to dream. We do this through providing them with easy to use Spelling handbooks that have our set of fully illustrated positive words, around the values of Character, Responsibility, Excellence, Empathy and Discipline. We believe that words change the world, and through an exposure to these words, they will be able to increase their vocabulary on one hand, while on the other hand, the words will enable them develop a positive attitude towards life, that they will need as they grow.
Funded by London (August 2014)