Miss Oluebube Ogbonna, a 14-year-old student of Divine Rays British School Obosi, Idemili North of Anambra, on Sunday emerged the winner of the first Igbo Spelling Bee competition.
Ogbonna came tops in the competition in which 356 public and private secondary school students in Awka, Nnewi, and Onitsha educational zones participated.
The event was organized by City Speller Bee, in collaboration with Onitsha Business School.
In the final round which featured 16 schools, held in Onitsha, Ogbonna beat Oruche Chukwuma of St Paul’s Seminary Ukpor and Okeke Godswill and Divine Rays British School, Obosi, to second and third places respectively.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the winners went home with N300,000, N100,000, and N50,000 respectively for their efforts.
They were tested on knowledge of spelling, Igbo syllabication, and punctuation.
Mrs. Ogochukwu Ifeka, Professor of Igbo Literature at the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Igbariam, said the competition had confirmed that efforts to revive the Igbo language are yielding fruits.
Ifeka commended the students’ proficiency in the knowledge of the Igbo language and also their schools for taking the teaching of the language seriously.
She said the competition would elicit positive interest among youths and also encourage them to take up careers in it.
The university Don urged parents to interact with their children in their native languages as it was not the duty of formal school teachers to teach them.
Ifeka said schools and offices should implement the policy of the government that Igbo Language and attire should be spoken and worn on Wednesdays as a way of helping the young ones grasp the language.
“I must say I am impressed with the performance of these students, while I was marking their scripts, I had Internal joy that they could do so well.
“I want to thank the organizers of the Igbo Spelling Bee Competition for reawakening the consciousness, the good thing is that the fear that the Igbo Language is going into extinction is no more there.
“It is the duty of parents to teach their children their native languages, that is why it is called ‘mother tongue’, they should communicate with them in their own languages, it also goes with a strong understanding of their culture,” she said.
Also speaking, Mr. Chinedu Aniagboso, Project Manager of the competition said it was the first indigenous language spelling bee in Nigeria and was aimed at making it attractive to the youth.
Aniagboso commended schools for keying into the project while assuring that it would be a yearly competition.
“You can see how excited these students are competing in their own language, they not only understand English, but they are also proficient in Igbo.
“We are hoping to make this a yearly event, so we call on the Anambra government, firms, and individuals to come and partner with us so that the awareness and reward can get better in subsequent editions,” he said.