She was 8 years old and was in class minding her business when her younger brother’s teacher said to her, “You should also join The Spelling Bee; your younger brother has already joined”. That’s all this 8-year-old girl needed to convince her she would enjoy the programme. She joined and was extra hopeful she would win in 2019, but she wouldn’t win.
Naa Koshie Manyo-Plange of The Roman Ridge School in Accra with her cup
Normally, this is the point where some would have thrown in the towel, thrown tantrums, or coiled into their shell; vowing never, ever to come back into the competition. But Naa Koshie Manyo-Plange came right back the next year to participate in the 9-month programme again – only this time, she did better than the year before. She qualified to the Semi-Finals level; she made progress!
This is a very significant point in The Spelling Bee and generally, in life. We all have or will attempt something the first time and not do well or fail at it spectacularly. It is only natural that we get disappointed, especially when we believe we gave it your all. Not succeeding at something the first time (or how many ever times it happens) tends to knock us off our feet, literally.
We begin to question why it happened to us and then dwell on that, forgetting that it is an opportunity to learn more and do better the next time round. And might I add, the next time round may not be the next day, or month, or year, or even 5 years. It can take as long as you need, or you thirst for it; the thirst for it is what should keep driving you to doing it until you get it right. Or get what you want.
Naa Koshie didn’t win the second year she attempted but there was a marked improvement in her performance as she had made it to the Semi-Finals stage. This is how you look at the glass; as half full, as opposed to half empty. The latter suggests despair whilst the former, hope.
Come back, Naa Koshie did! She wanted to win badly and so came back for a third attempt this year. Now, with two years’ experience under her belt, she was one of the few returning Spellers to keep an eye on.
She was competing against 59 other Spellers who had come from all over the country to vie for the title and there was even a four-time contender – that should make anyone tremble and panic, right? Wrong! At least in the case of Naa Koshie, she didn’t look perturbed – round after round, she will spell her word correctly, inching closer to the championship.
And then she was given the word PLEBISCITE to spell…and she got it wrong. That dreaded sound of the bell that every speller prays they don’t hear – it signals the end of their spelling journey for the year. But the other 4 Spellers who remained in the same round as Naa Koshie also got their words wrong, meaning they all had to come back and spell another round of words until a champion emerged.
And 13-year-old Naa Koshie, after spelling her Championship word A-M-A-X-O-P-H-O-B-I-A correctly emerged the winner of The Spelling Bee 2021!!! A win that took 3 years of commitment and dedication to purpose; Naa Koshie, in an interview with the BBC’s Focus on Africa host, stressed what kept her going was how she and her community would feel if she won. The community she speaks of includes her family, teachers, school, church, sponsors and all those who have been supporting her – isn’t that just heartwarming?
Naa Koshie, aside bagging the bragging rights as the 2021 Champion, receives GHc10,000 cash prize plus a year’s supply of Indomie products, a year’s worth of meals from Frankie’s restaurant, Ghc500 Goil fuel coupons, a DStv Explora with 6months. Other partners who are making Naa Koshie and all the other Spellers’ year memorable include Ashesi University, Rufus Green Parks, the US Embassy-Accra, Kenya Airways, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II Charity Foundation. This newspaper together with Citi TV and Citi FM gave the much needed media support.
And guess what? Travel permitting, Naa Koshie will represent Ghana
(and indeed Africa) at the 94th Scripps National Spelling Bee later this year. We wish Naa Koshie the best in all her endeavours. If you would like to join the next edition of The Spelling Bee go to www.thespellingbeegh.org to register and who knows, I could be writing about you here next year same time!
>>>The writer is a passionate educator who makes learning fun for children under 18 through co-curricular programmes. Through her charity organisation, Young Educators Foundation (YEF) in Ghana, the programmes portfolios have expanded to include literacy programmes in local languages as well as public speaking programmes for the youth.
Based on her work in education and with children, Eugenia is the recipient of many nomination and awards such as a presidential award for the contribution to education over the past decade in 2018. In 2019, she was named as one of the 74 individuals in Those who Inspire Ghana, a global programme that identifies nationals whose experiences are worth sharing. Eugenia believes that children are not the ‘future’, but rather the ‘present’ and so the need to invest in their total development. She is a regular contributor on radio and television shows as well as various public fora on this and related topics.