TAMIL NADU

Confusion at spelling bee

PACIFYING PARENTS: A woman representative of the spelling bee contest talking to agitated parents of the contestants in Chennai on Saturday.

PACIFYING PARENTS: A woman representative of the spelling bee contest talking to agitated parents of the contestants in Chennai on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: K.Pichumani

R.Sujatha

It was held three hours behind schedule; organisers blamed

CHENNAI: About 50 children who had come to the city from different parts of the country to take part in a spelling bee contest on Saturday were in for a shock as the organisers of the event failed to show up at the scheduled time.

Only after protests and police intervention did the representatives of MaRRS (Market Research Reach Service), which was organising the International Spelling Bee National Championship, went ahead with the contest, three hours behind schedule.

The students who gathered at the venue, Muthukumaran Institute of Technology near Mangadu, since early morning were greeted by a small notice that the contest was postponed owing to a bandh called by the Left parties to protest against the fuel price hike.

“I worked a whole vacation for the competition,” said a visibly upset Mamta Rana of Mumbai who came to participate in the contest for students of classes VII and VIII.

“We wanted to attend this contest and that is why came all the way from Kollam,” said Chitra, who was accompanied by her parents.

Around 150 persons gathered at the venue for the qualifying written and oral round on Saturday. The participants came from Orissa, Goa, Mumbai, Bangalore, Madurai and Salem. Some parents came with their luggage as they had booked return tickets by the evening trains. Others had flown or driven down to the city for the event.

The contest was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. “I have my business appointments, but came here for my child’s sake. When we called the helpline after coming here, we were told the event was cancelled. Why were we not informed earlier,” parents fumed.

K. Sundar, a parent, said, “Our children have missed school for this event. The college [venue] was locked and even the toilets were out of bounds for us.”

For this qualifying round, 10 students were selected from each State and the national finals would be held in Goa. The tests have been held since Tuesday for students from classes I to XII.

Around 11 a.m. on Saturday, after several calls to the organisers, a representative arrived and said that parents of children who took the test on the previous days had been informed about the postponement.

But the agitated parents insisted that the tests be conducted for those who were present at the venue as planned, since they had not been informed earlier.

“We have mobile phones and they could have messaged us,” another parent said. Representative of MaRRS said, “We did not inform anyone. People called us and we told them that the event was postponed.”

The Mangadu police, however, intervened and wanted written test to be conducted. After more calls to the helpline, two more representatives arrived and announced that the test would not be held.

Around 1 p.m., the organisers gave in as more police personnel arrived. The written test was conducted and some students were declared qualified and told to stay back until Monday when the oral round will be held after the qualifying written test for those who did not come on Saturday. Some of the students were not prepared for extending their stay in the city.

“My school reopens on Monday and if I don’t report on the first day, I will have to pay a fine of Rs.2,500,” said Nishika Srikar from Mumbai, who was glad that she did not qualify.

Even the district-level championship on February 3 in Bangalore was not held as scheduled and the entrance fee was refunded.

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