America’s largest and longest-running spelling bee competition, The Scripps National Spelling Bee, took place on Thursday, May 26, and Ghana’s Afua Ansah was one of the 45 finalists present.
Although most of the participants are from the United States, the competition also opens doors to foreign nationals, and in previous years, Japan, Jamaica, Mexico, China, and New Zealand have all participated. The rules stipulate that contestants must be under 14 years of age and cannot be previous winners of other spelling bee competitions.
Earlier on Wednesday, Afua, who hails from Ghana’s capital, Accra, earned a spot at the finals after spelling the words “hauberk” and “senescent”.
Visibly elated, Afua, who was joined on stage by friends and her coach, said:
I feel proud to be doing this on behalf of my country,” adding that “I feel like an ambassador of Ghana so I am proud to carry the flag of my country to the finals.
Her coach, Emmanuel Afful, credits her success so far to years of hard work and a lot of determination on her part. He said he reminded Efua that:
...children in America are no different from children around the world. The only difference is that we are poorer at reading and writing and so I posed a challenge to her to read, study and ask questions, and she will be there and that was exactly what happened.
Afua may not have clinched the ultimate prize, but she is nevertheless a trailblazer. Her success, which has come in spite of the fact that Ghana has one of the worst girl child literacy rates in the world, will hopefully inspire other youngsters, especially girls like her in Ghana and the rest of Africa, to believe in themselves and reach for the stars.
A win for Afua would have meant taking home $30,000 in cash and an engraved “loving cup” trophy among other mouth-watering prizes. Nevertheless, she and the rest of the 44 finalists went home with $100 in US saving bonds, an undisclosed cash prize from the organizers of the competition and many other prizes.