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Students overcome nerves at Dawn’s Spelling Bee competition

November 03, 2016

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US consul general Grace W. Shelton with Aryan Tauqeer, the winner in the 12 to 14 age group of the 12th Dawn in Education National Spelling Bee regional championship.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
US consul general Grace W. Shelton with Aryan Tauqeer, the winner in the 12 to 14 age group of the 12th Dawn in Education National Spelling Bee regional championship.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: If the words didn’t sound difficult to spell, they could be very tricky. And several students at the 12th Dawn in Education National Spelling Bee regional championship here on Tuesday at the Arts Council of Pakistan’s auditorium realised this the moment they spelt a word and heard ‘Incorrect’ in response.

Words such as ‘coerce’, ‘masseuse’, ‘impasse’, ‘meme’, ‘fuchsia’ and ‘duvet’ required a moment to ponder otherwise in his rush one child even faltered on ‘pursuit’. This was why there were 40 seconds allowed to think before speaking. The first 20 seconds were for asking the meaning, part of speech, pronunciation and use of the word in a sentence. And the final 20 were to ponder and spell.

Competition became tough in the 12 to 14 age group when many participants got their spellings wrong or all mixed up. Not heard properly, ‘pander’ sounded like ‘panda’ and ‘paltry’ became ‘poultry’. This was followed by embarrassed looks and sheepish smiles when they realised their silly mistakes. One can be sure that some even got ideas when the word ‘Abscond’ came up!

But there were also others, like Manaal Abbas of Karachi Grammar School, who had enough confidence to challenge the judges when she pointed out that ‘judgement’ and ‘judgment’ were both correct. To err is human, so they say. And the judges accepted their mistake to give her points amid applause and cheers from her supporters.

Still, one isn’t always so lucky. When a teacher challenged the judges about the word ‘sheath’, which the participant had spelled ‘sheathe’, they replayed the recording to remain firm on their decision. “We had said that it was a noun and you spelt the verb,” they said as the challengers were proven wrong.

US consul general in Karachi Grace W. Shelton, the chief guest during the 12 to 14 age group session, later said she was very impressed by the children’s talent. “Spelling Bee is a tradition in the US. I was myself a winner in the second grade, so I know well the stress levels during such competitions,” she said while congratulating all the participants for conducting themselves so well.

Dawn Media Group’s director of circulation Niloufer Patel thanked all their partners, including Dawn newspaper, Dawn.com, Herald, DawnNews and City FM89. “Dawn started this project 12 years ago when it wanted to come up with a fun teaching tool. From 30 schools initially, we have today expanded to 900 schools nationwide,” she said, adding that all credit for this went to Amber Haroon Saigol, chairman of the Dawn Media Group, who wanted the show to go on.

Thanking their sponsors, Ms Patel especially thanked Oxford University Press. “They have remained with Spelling Bee since its inception, providing us with judges, too,” she said before thanking her entire team “for a fabulous job”. The children of Pakistan, the participants in this competition, she referred to as VVIPs. “It is their enthusiastic participation that keeps us going from one year to the next,” she concluded.

Results of the Karachi regional rounds:

9-11:

Regional champion: Mohammad Rayaan Khan — BVS Parsi High School.

1st runner up: Abdullah Saeed — Happy Home School — Arts & science academy, Clifton.

2nd runner up: Syed Imaad Ali — BVS Parsi High School.

12-14:

Regional Champion: Aryan Tauqeer — LINKS School — UPS.

1st runner up: Anum Sara Siddiqui — Convent of Jesus & Mary School — Senior.

2nd runner up: Mekyail Ali Tariq — Foundation Public School -- O level, North.

15-17:

Regional Champion:

Unaiza Naeem — Generation’s School — South Campus.

1st runner up: Fizza Rizvi -- St. Peter’s High School.

2nd runner up: Sania Irfan — Generation’s School — South Campus.

Published in Dawn, November 3rd, 2016