Malawi National Association for the Deaf (MANAD) on July 21, 2023, successfully conducted the first ever National Spelling Bee Competition targeting learners with hearing impairments.
Spelling Bee Competition is one of the activities MANAD is implementing under the All Children Reading (ACR) initiative through its sign language in action prize whose project is titled ‘Promoting Accessible Malawian Sign Language Books’.
The major objective of the project is to improve their literacy prowess among deaf learners in Malawi.
The first ever spelling bee competition, which took place at Embangweni in Mzimba, drew contestants from six schools, which included Mua, Maryview, Embangweni, Bandawe, Mountview and Karonga Schools for the Deaf, with each school sending three learners, translating into 18 learners who were from standards 2 to 4.
The first ever sign language competition was organized with basket funding support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), World Vision International, Australian Government and technical support from eKitabu and Malawi National Spelling Bee in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology through the Directorate of Special Need Education.
Speaking to journalists after the competition, ACR Reading’s Promoting MSL Accessible Books Coordinator, Sekerani Kufakwina, said the competition sets an eye opener to partners and stakeholders in deaf education.
Kufakwina observed that for quite long time, deaf children were deprived of learning motivational events like spelling competition and letter writing, among others.
“It’s high time we considered deaf children in adapting sign language like in the case of easy competition. The deaf children will be allowed to submit an essay in sign language, likewise spelling competition, let the children be allowed to finger spell, all to fulfill the rights of children,” he said.
The Ministry of Education Chief Education Officer responsible for Inclusive Education Department, Peter Msendema, disclosed that the ministry is in the process of developing the first ever Sign Language Training Manual to guide the training of special needs teachers in the country.
Msendema said the development of the manual is one of the activities the ministry has set aside to improve the quality of special needs teachers as the country strives to enhance access to education for learners with special needs.
In his remarks, MANAD Board Chairperson Robert Mbendera lamented the gaps existing in the sign language sector, stressing the need for the government and its development partners to strengthen and promote sign language at every level.
Malawi is the second country in Africa to conduct such a competition after Botswana, which conducted its first in 2019.