First-Ever Spelling Bee in Ghanaian Language to Promote Reading

Yendi, GHANA— On July 25, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Ministry of Education partnered with the Young Educators Foundation to host Ghana’s first-ever spelling bee in Dagbani—a language widely spoken in the Northern Region. This event brought together the Yendi Municipal Chief Executive, the Municipal Director of Education, the representative of the Paramount Chief of the Dagbon Traditional area, parents, assemblymen and women, head teachers, parent-teacher associations, religious leaders and hundreds of school children. The aim of the spelling bee was to mobilize the Yendi community around encouraging their children to read with fluency and comprehension.

Four-hundred pupils between the ages of six and ten competed in the Spelling Bee, and 77 of these pupils advanced to the finals. The finalists competed in the grand finale for the title of being the champion speller in the Dagbani spelling bee. After the twelfth round, eight-year old Fuseini Jabiru from Tusani Primary School emerged the winner.

USAID held the spelling bee as part of its efforts to improve reading performance among primary school pupils. USAID supported the Ghana Education Service to develop a phonics-based reading program in Ghanaian languages and English, which involves the systematic teaching of letter sounds and syllables in a carefully paced sequence, so children can begin reading words independently. USAID and the Ministry of Education piloted this approach in 20 schools in Yendi Municipality, providing instructional materials and training teachers. In just eight weeks, pupils that were tested using the Early Grade Reading Assessment improved their letter sound knowledge from three correct letters per minute to 16 per minute. USAID is currently in the process of scaling up this program throughout Ghana’s ten regions.
“The children competing in the bee have come such a long way. It’s hard to believe, but many of them could not read a single syllable just seven months ago,” said USAID/Ghana Education Director James Dobson. “We are looking forward to scaling up the phonics-based reading program throughout Ghana, so we can get all Ghanaian children reading.”

The objective of USAID’s Education Program is to increase the number of Ghanaian children reading and to improve educational access in rural areas. USAID works in partnership with the Ministry of Education to improve education outcomes across Ghana.