Guyana’s students yesterday emerged the overall winners in the first Inter-Guianas Spelling Bee Competition.
The Spelling Bee brought together students of Guyana and Suriname, from ages 10 to 14, in a concept of solidarity dubbed “Guianame.”
The participants were drawn from several regions in Guyana and from the AlphaMax Academy, which has been the winner of the National Spelling Bee in Suriname for the past three years.
Divided into the age groups of 10-11, 12-13 and 14-15, Suriname took home the winning prize in the junior category with a score of 39 to 30, but Guyana came out successful in the middle and senior categories, having respectively earned 28 points to Suriname’s 26 points, and 33 points to Suriname’s 24, to cop the overall prize. The final score stood at 99 for Guyana and 89 for Suriname.
Quite high paced, there were several moments that gave the audience at the National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD) cause to gasp collectively in the final rounds, only to breathe sighs of relief when the contestant was given a second chance, if only due to the blunder of an opponent.
There were many successive highs and lows in the 10-11 category between contestants Alex Persaud of Santa Rosa Primary School and Aashiriya Anroedh, of AlphaMax, so much so that it caused Director General of Tourism Donald Sinclair to joke, “They planned to get the same words wrong.” Anroedh eventually emerged the winner in that round, having correctly spelt the word “dyslexia” and then gone on to spell “emancipation.” Persaud came out the best speller for the Guyana team in that round.
In an interesting turn of events, all Guyanese team members in the 14-15 category were left standing and were left to compete amongst themselves for the best speller in that category. The best spellers in the groups 12-13 and 14-15 were sisters Renee Bisnauth and Reva Bisnauth, respectively, of the Berbice High School.
Reva, having correctly spelt the word “phosphorous,” felt her way through the word “septuagenarian,” much to the anxiety of the crowd. Renee’s winning word was “cuisine,” after her opponent misspelled “beige.”
Archana Mangal was the best Suriname speller in the 12-13 category, and her teammate, Chiara Tjon-A-Joe, copped the trophy for the best 14-15 Surinamese speller.
The theme for the competition, “Enhancing links across borders,” spoke to the connections being forged between the two nations and these were continuously referenced throughout the competition by Sinclair, Minister of Tourism and Public Telecommunications Cathy Hughes and coach of the Suriname team Reann Kersenhout.
Hughes, in her speech, emphasised that the competition was not about winning but about the experiences shared and the friendships that would be forged from then on.
“I find myself asking, why this emphasis on ‘against?’ Why this obsession… we need a mind shift from this paradigm. If we think about it, why should we, as neighbours, find ourselves pitted against each other whenever we get together?” Kersenhout questioned in her speech.
“…This competition is not an activity of being against, it is a coming together. A competition of being for a new, bold, shared ideal, in which we stand side by side, not as opponents, but as friends, good neighbours… forging new paths of cooperation. I do not think that it’s accidental that the first Inter-Guiana Spelling event with young people at the centre actually takes place in the land that was made and calls itself the Cooperative Republic of Guyana,” she added.
She went on to state that it was this notion of two teams sharing an intellectual space and a common, shared victory, that they had dubbed “Guianame” (pronounced Gwee-an-ah-mah).
The contestants in the first Inter-Guianas Spelling Bee Competition (in no particular order) were as follows: Teneshia Thompson of Brickdam Secondary School, Joshua McDonald of Brickdam Secondary School, Jude Edwards of the All Saints Primary School, Olankie Henry of Kuru Kuru Primary, Alex Persaud of Santa Rosa Primary, Melinda Andrews of Mahdia Secondary School, Shawn Williams of Three Miles Secondary School, and Reva and Renee Bisnauth of Berbice High School; and Sheetal Anroedh, Aashiriya Anroedh, Shemaya Johnson, Archana Mangal, Lewien Despo, Esrella van der Kooye, Laluisha Despo, Beyonce Cambridge, Chiara Tjon-A-Joe of AlphaMax Academy.