In a joint effort to improve the English language standard in schools, Bright Light Ministries has partnered with major sponsors Airtel (SL) Ltd, Dragon Transport, Sam-King Group Limited and Package Perfect to host the first Inter-School Spelling and Debating Competition among 8 schools in the Western Area.
The event which took place at the British Council Hall in Tower Hill on Saturday 11th June 2011 was intended to be the pilot programme of a bigger national event involving schools throughout the country. The General Overseer of Bright Light Ministries, Louise Chayote stated that the focus on Spelling in this competition was to provide pupils with the incentive to improve their English language vocabulary. Seven Junior Secondary school pupils competed for the Grand Prize for Spelling. Eight Senior Secondary school pupils competed for the Grand Prizes in Spelling and Debating.
Declining standards in the educational system, confusion over Krio and English words, and poor teacher preparedness have all contributed to the decline in written and spoken English in the school system.
In stating his company’s position in supporting the venture, Mr. Wilfred Sam-King said that it was now important to improve the learning environment and stimulate an atmosphere of learning English so teachers could be vanguards in such a process. Sam-King Group believes that the key asset of any country is its Human Capital. The quality of the human resource is a function of the educational system, their academic excellence and other key deliverables. Mr. Sam-King said, “English language is a pivot in our academic pursuit. This initiative taken by Bright Light Ministries requires the backing of every corporate institution that requires quality human resources to achieve its desired goals.”
The Managing Director of Dragon Transport, Mr. Modupe Taylor-Pearce stated that he strongly supported such an initiative because he wanted pupils to realize that their knowledge of English language influences their career placement and salary scale in the Sierra Leonean and international market.
This was echoed by a donor of Sierra Leone Bottling Company who explained that his house maid, who learned English from working and being in an environment where English was spoken all the time, was later able to obtain a Bachelor’s degree majoring in Eng
lish and French. She studied in Canada and is now working in the United States. Other institutions and individuals made strong statements with their contribution to the hosting and success of the competition.
All agreed that the quality of English language spoken and written had declined and something needed to be done to improve the quality. Airtel (SL) Ltd donated the Grand Prize for the Senior Secondary School Spelling Competition: a scholarship to finish secondary school and the first year in University. Airtel also donated one million Leones (Le 1 million) grand cash prize for the winner of the Senior Secondary School Debating competition. Sponsorship also came from Package Perfect, Sierra Leone Bottling Company, the British Council, the Martha Logan Thomas Society, and Move up Consulting Services, Nazmone’s Development Institute and many well wishers and supporters who feel enough is enough and Sierra Leone needs to return to the days of being the Athens of West Africa.
In a very lively and exciting event, Marian Tarawallie of St Joseph’s Secondary school won the Junior Secondary School Grand Prize in Spelling a scholarship to finish secondary school donated by the Martha Logan Thomas Society. Patrina Sankoh of Freetown Secondary School for Girls (FSSG) won the Senior Secondary School Grand Prize for Spelling. Anna Boima of FSSG won the Senior Secondary School debating competition. Runner ups were pupils from Prince of Wales and Albert Academy.
The competition revealed the great deficit in the English language vocabulary and grammar at the best schools. Students appealed for dictionaries at the end of the program. It is anticipated that educational programs will emerge as a result of the lessons learnt from this competition and it will take place on an annual basis.
By Solomon Rogers