Ten-year-old Ntando Vilakazi won the 2015 Nedbank Spell It Challenge after she was the only child to spell the word “handkerchief” successfully.Ten-year-old Ntando Vilakazi beat 20 000 other students from across Gauteng to be named the winner of the 2015 Nedbank Spell It Challenge.The Grade Five learner from Umdeni South’s Luyolo Primary School in Soweto fought off competition from 25 other finalists in the intense finale of the spelling competition on 7 November, earning herself a R200 000 scholarship from Monash South Africa as well as a R1 000 cash prize.“I am over the moon!” said her mother, Zandile Vilakazi, explaining how her daughter had always enjoyed reading. “She loves going to the library and doesn’t fall asleep at night without reading a book.”Selected from a group of more than 20 000 pupils from 200 schools across Gauteng, the 25 finalists took part in a four-round challenge. Vilakazi won after she was the only child to spell the word “handkerchief” successfully.THE IMPORTANCE OF READINGNedbank’s Spell It Challenge is a regional spelling competition run in partnership with Spell It South Africa, the Gauteng department of education and Monash University.All partners involved understand the importance of literacy and its power to help youth reach their full potential as the future of South Africa.Literacy was an important part of the bank’s corporate social responsibility strategy, said Nedbank’s divisional executive for corporate social responsibility, Lindiwe Themba. It highlighted the importance of the role of corporations in supporting the development of the country.“Spelling aids in reading, allowing one to discover the wonders of the world through words. It assists in shaping confidence and in building a knowledge-based economy. As such, we believe that literacy building can be a catalyst for sustainable socio-economic transformation in communities that we serve,” Themba said.PARTNERS FOR PROGRESSNedbank, through partners Spell It South Africa, has provided spelling coaches to selected schools to offer the pupils a greater opportunity to master English, in an attempt to ensure they develop good levels of literacy.The coaches offer training to improve the learners’ phonics, which is the ability to hear, identify and manipulate the sounds that make up words; word and letter recognition. They also help the children develop more extensive vocabularies before they start high school.“From Grade One to Grade Four you learn to read, and from Grade Four onwards you read to learn. If you don’t get that right, you have problems,” explained Roger Dickinson, the founder of Spell It. “Our children want to learn and they need to be given the opportunity to excel in learning – that is what our partnership is about.”Spell It South Africa has helped to enrich the learning experiences of over 150 000 primary school pupils in the last five years. It aims to spread its influence further through partnerships such as this one with Nedbank.