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Opinions of Friday, 7 July 2017

Columnist: Nanabanyin Dadson

Quizmaster, please pass it on - When ‘old boyism’ takes over the bragging space

Last week was a phenomenal one in the academic circles of senior high schools (SHS) in Ghana when the 22nd annual National Science and Maths Quiz (NSMQ) wound down to a pulsating final at the National Theatre in Accra.

I must say, rather unabashedly, that I am not a science or mathematics person but I was forced to follow this year’s contest by the huge presence of the event in the media. For the last one month, discussions about NSMQ17 were everywhere on facebook, twitter, instagram, radio and live streaming online.

Curiously, most of the discussions, debates, cheers, jeers, trolls and whatever you may call it that were going on was neither among participants nor organisers of the contest. Rather, it was among old students, many of whom, like me, may not go near a science or math question.

I cannot imagine myself sitting on that hot seat, listening attentively to the quiz master asking me: “Find the electric field magnitude inside a uniformly charged sphere of radius 0.20 milli coulomb at a point 0.04m at the centre of the sphere.” My answer to that would be a simple, “Quizmaster, please pass it on.” How on earth was I going to answer that?

Truth be told, only a few of the large number of people who have been involved in the massive engagement in the media can answer a question like that.

Many may not even give a damn about what a milli coulomb is or have any interest in whether the contest will enhance the academic fortunes of the students or their schools. Theirs is simply an emotional trip; emotion flowing out of being a former student of a school or knowing someone who attended a participating school or having some other links, be it amorous or simply being a hater.

When in 1994 Primetime Limited began the contest, the organisers stated clearly that their objective was to promote the study of the sciences and mathematics and they appear to have faithfully stayed on that course.

At the launch of this year’s edition, the Managing Director (MD) of Primetime, Nana Akua Ankomah Asare, said the event had produced scientists for the country.
It appears, however, that in the minds of the past students and fans of the 135 SHSs which took part in the last contest, it was all a matter of acquiring bragging rights than any other objective.

The bragging of past students of Prempeh College, winners of the 2017 edition, is certain to continue throughout the year just as past winners – Presec, Opoku Ware, Achimota, Mfantsipim, Pope Johns, GSTS, Aquinas, Adisadel, Augustine’s and Persco - have done.

The bragging of past students of Prempeh College, winners of the 2017 edition, is certain to continue throughout the year just as past winners – Presec, Opoku Ware, Achimota, Mfantsipim, Pope Johns, GSTS, Aquinas, Adisadel, Augustine’s and Persco - have done.

As I write this, it has just come to my notice that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has posted on his Instagram page: “Congratulations to Prempeh College for winning NSMQ17.

Favourites from start, they justified that tag at the end of the contest. Better luck next time to the other schools.” Having studied in the United Kingdom (UK) himself, it is not immediately clear what President Akufo–Addo’s link with Prempeh College may be, although it is well-known that his predecessor, President John Kufuor, is an old Prempeh boy.

From whatever angle one looks at it, this stir of excitement among old boys and old girls is a positive indication of an emerging force within the Ghanaian population that can no longer be overlooked. So far, it is the Science and Maths Quiz that has thrown this population into relief but there have been other high school programmes that have demonstrated a similar excitement albeit on a modest scale.

In recent times, sports programmes such as the Schools and Colleges Athletics competitions, Milo Football Championship and Sprite Basketball contest have continued to enjoy a large old-student followership.

Within the arts and entertainment space, the Vodafone Icons: High School Edition comes to mind.
I happen to be an ardent performing arts enthusiast whether at work or at leisure and, therefore, any activity that has the potential of promoting the arts earns my support. That is why I doff my hat to the Vodafone Icons: High School Edition.

For decades, the sad cry among local music enthusiasts has been that our young musicians have lost the skill at playing live music on real music instruments, having lost out to technology surrogates. Older people are quick to point to the Pop Chain days that produced some eminent Ghanaian musicians. Are we on the verge of a live band renaissance soon?

When it comes to funding, I see a win-win situation in these school contests for both organisers and sponsors. While the core objective of providing a launch pad for the development of talent wins, there is also a reward for sponsors as they reach out to the large additional population of past and current students with the right products.

While at it, let me add my bit of congratulation to NSMQ17 winners, Prempeh College, as well as the 134 other participating high schools who demonstrated extra brilliance in science and math.

You have indeed proven that you are smarter than most of us parents (I hope my sons will not read this), past students and many more among the general public.
Any one wants to dare?

“Find the energy lost when a 2kg object moving at 5m/s-1 which lies head on with, sticks to a stationary 3kg object.” There you are!