The American Scripps National Spelling Bee is an over 80-year old educational contest open to Englishspeaking nations around the world. It is suggested that spelling bees originated in the USA since the late 1700s. In fact, the earliest known example is a spinning bee in 1769. Other early occurrences are a husking bee (1816), am apple bee (1827), and a logging bee (1836). Today’s term “Spelling bee” originated from the USA, as first seen printed in 1875, but it is assumed that it was in use several years before that.
Regardless of its American origins, spelling bees are normally carried out even in English-speaking countries because the language is difficult to spell correctly, even for native speakers. Unlike other languages with alphabets, spellings do not have the same regular phonetic correspondence to sounds in English. Instead, spellings progressed through time and often reflects the word’s language of origin. As a result, the same sound(s) may be spelled in many different ways, and words spelled the same way may have various pronunciations.
The Spelling Bee phenomenon was introduced in Kenya through a pilot phase in Nairobi County before the National roll out to other Counties.
In 2016, the program rolled out to all the Sub-Counties in Nairobi – The prize was a fully paid trip to Johannesburg, South Africa for the top 3 students and their Teachers.
The top 3 finalists of the Nairobi County Spelling Bee Championship represented Kenya in the 1st African Spelling Bee Championship that was held on the 16th July, 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Team South Africa emerged the winners while Team Kenya tied in position two with Team Ethiopia. Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Nigeria participated.
In 2017 the program was rolled out to 30 Counties. The prize for the top three winners and their schools were as follows:
- The National Champion – Cash prize worth 500,000
- 1st Runners up – Cash prize worth 300,000
- 2nd Runners up – Cash prize worth 100,000
The Teachers of the above received cash prizes worth 50,000 for the Champion, 30,000 and 10,000 for the 1st and the 2nd runners up respectively
The top 3 spellers/winners of the 2017 Championship represented Kenya in the 2nd African Spelling Bee Championship held in Johannesburg, South Africa on December 16th, 2017.
2018 began with a Spelling Bee TV show that ran on KTN Home and was watched by millions every Saturday morning.
The National Spelling Bee Championship was a two-day event that brought together pupils, their teachers, officials and guests to Kwale County where all the participating pupils received spelling bee t-shirts, certificates of participation, gold medals and a five-star hospitality experience at the Kaskazi Beach Hotel. The top 3 spellers received certificates of merit, gold medals, trophies and a ticket to represent the Country in the 2018 African Spelling Bee Championship.
The African Spelling Bee Championship took place on 24th November in Kwale County at the Kaskazi Beach Hotel. Spellers from 10 African Countries participated and Team Kenya emerged position 2 overall with Team Nigeria taking the lead and Team Rwanda emerging the 2nd Runner-up.
- The 2019 competition kicked off in Term 2 of the School calendar whereby Pupils sat for a Spelling Bee written test from which the top 3 Pupils proceeded to the Sub County & County Championships in the 40 participating Counties.
- The top 3 Spellers from the County Championships then proceeded to Nairobi County for the National Spelling Bee Championship & TV Show.
- Samantha Milan from Siaya County emerged the National Spelling Bee Champion with Hope Natalia from Nyeri County emerging the 1st runners-up and Abigail Iteyo from Vihiga County emerging the 2nd runners-up.
- The 3 Champions then proceeded to Uganda for the 4th African Spelling Bee where Team Kenya emerged position 2 overall with Samantha winning the Junior category.