(GAJ) At a time when the nation is grappling with incessant allegations of corruption at most of her public institutions, there is indeed one bright light, indeed, a true test of brain power. As the nation failed to make it to the 2018 World Cup, many have turned to the NSMQ as it is referred to, to get a jolt of National Pride.
Unlike the Spelling Bee in the US, which some may argue is not a true representation of academic excellence, Ghana’s Science and Math quiz is rigorous, comprehensive and brings out the best in Ghanaian High School academic performance, as most of its participants go on to the top of their fields in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields (STEM).
The quiz competition, formally referred to as the Brilliant Science and Math Quiz “Brilla” is by far the most highly rated academic event that brings all of Ghana’s secondary schools together to show the best among the lot. To date, the National Science and Math’s Quiz is the longest running educational program on Ghanaian television, as it celebrates 25 years, and garners the attention of the entire nation.
In fact, most old students from some of the top schools in Ghana, use this occasion to renew their bragging rights, as they boast of their schools as being the best in the nation.
The NSMQ as the name denotes, is no easy contest, it is actually a test of true academic excellence, as students have to compete over some difficult Science and Mathematics problems with speed and accuracy.
When the quiz began in 1993, it involved only 32 schools across the country, and these were divided into the Northern Sector and Southern Sector, with 16 schools per sector. Winners in both sectors were then brought to Ghana’s capital, Accra for the national championship. In 1997, the geographical sector system was abandoned and interestingly, two northern sector schools, Opoku Ware School and Prempeh College, two of the fiercest rivalries in secondary school history made it to the finals, the storied AV batch of 1997, from Opoku Ware School won the competition for the very first time against Prempeh College.
In 1998, the tournament became known as the National Science & Maths Quiz, when it lost its sponsorship from the company which initially sponsored it, the makers of Brilliant soap. From 2000, the number of participating schools was increased to 40, and in 2013, the number of participating schools went up to 81, although 66 turned up for the competition. Thus, the participation format was changed to three schools competing per contest, instead of two, as had been the case since the program’s inception.
To give the competition a truly national character, the quiz has since 2014 involved 135 schools from all parts of Ghana. This gives virtually any good secondary school in Ghana the opportunity to compete on a level playing field with the historically “Great” schools.
If this year’s competition is any measure, the so called second-tier schools have done amazingly well by kicking out the top schools.
For example, Tamale Secondary School took out Achimota School; Mfantsipim School took out Presbyterian Secondary School and Mawuli Secondary took out Opoku Ware; and West African Secondary School took out Prempeh College.
The first quiz mistress was the late Prof. Marian Ewurama Addy, professor of Biochemistry at the University of Ghana, Legon. She was quiz-mistress from 1993-2000. Dr. Eureka Emefa Adomako, a botanist at the University of Ghana, Legon, took over as quiz-mistress from 2001 to 2005, having been recommended by Prof. Addy. Dr. Adomako was a fantastic quiz mistress who took charge of the program until she had to leave for postgraduate studies. Just as Prof. Addy had recommended her as quiz mistress, Dr. Adomako also recommended that Dr. Kaufmann take over as quiz mistress. In 2006, Dr. Elsie Effah Kaufmann, the Head of the Biomedical Engineering department, University of Ghana, Legon, took over as quiz mistress. Over the past ten years, she has succeeded in bringing her own style to the program, occasionally injecting some humor into an otherwise tense contest. As the chairperson of the moderation team, Dr. Kaufmann is supported by a team of consultants made up of Prof. W.A. Asomaning, Dr. Ebenezer Owusu, Dr. Amos Kuditcher and Dr. Douglas Adu-Gyamfi, all from the University of Ghana, Legon.
Presbyterian Boys’ Secondary School, Legon has been to the finals 7 times and won the trophy 5 times. Another 7-time finalist, Opoku Ware School, has won the trophy two times. Prempeh College is a four-time winner. Achimota School is the only unisex school to have won the competition. It may surprise you that no all-female school has ever won the competition although, Ghana boasts of at least three top rated all-girl schools. Only 11 schools out of the hundreds of Senior High Schools in Ghana have won the competition since its inception.
From 2012, the Ghana Education Service (GES), through the Conference of Heads of Assisted Schools, CHASS, took up the sponsorship of the program. Thus, the competition was opened up to many more schools to participate. In 2013, 66 out of the 81 invited schools participated. From 2014, 108 schools were selected from regional competitions to join 27 seeded schools (quarter-finalists from the previous year’s competition) at the National Championships.
This year’s competition finals would be quite a unique one to witness as Adisadel College, considered a top-ranked school, tries to beat less known St. Peters Senior High School and West African Secondary School. If this year’s World cup gives us any clues, then being from a famous or big named country or school does not guarantee victory.