How the National Science and Maths quiz began

Prof. Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang, Minister of Education.

The idea for the production of a science and mathematics quiz programme was not mooted at a national science fair or conference.

It all began in early 1993, on the tennis court of the University of Ghana, Legon. Mr. Kwaku Mensa-Bonsu, then Managing Director of Primetime, was at the court to play tennis with his playmates, the late Professors Marian Ewurama Addy and Ebenezer Kweku Awotwe.

Mr. Mensa-Bonsu was curious as to why birds could stand on a live electric wire without getting electrocuted, but human beings could not do same. From Prof. Awotwe’s explanation, Mr. Mensa-Bonsu got the idea of putting together a quiz programme on Science and Maths. Since then, the National Science & Maths Quiz (NSMQ) has seen 19 exciting editions, with the 20th edition coming up from June 8- July 3, 2015 at the R.S. Amegashie Auditorium, University of Ghana Business School, Legon.

The NSMQ is the longest-running independent production on television in Ghana. The programme is very popular with Senior High School students, parents and, especially, with former students (old boys and girls), who take great pride in the performance of their schools on this programme.  Indeed, the Saturday 11a.m. slot on GTV is synonymous with the NSMQ, as this has been the time slot for the programme since it first aired in 1994.

When the quiz started, it involved only 32 schools. Over the years, however, it has gained a truly national character, involving135 schools from all parts of Ghana since 2014.

The objectives of the National Science & Maths Quiz are to promote the study of the sciences and mathematics, help students develop quick thinking and a probing and scientific mind about the things around them, while fostering healthy academic rivalry among senior high schools.

Without a doubt, these aims have been achieved. The quiz, popularly referred to as “Brilla” by many who have gone through the secondary school system is an extremely important event on the schools’ calendar.

Quiz Mistresses

Many followers of the National Science & Maths Quiz would have noticed that the competition has since 1993 had only female scientists in charge of the programme. It is for good reason: this has been Primetime’s way of encouraging many young girls to aspire to excel in the study of science and mathematics.

The first quiz mistress (1993-2000) was the late Marian Ewurama Addy, professor of Biochemistry at the University of Ghana, Legon. In recognition of her contribution to promoting the study of Science and Mathematics amongst girls through the NSMQ, Prof. Marian Addy was named the Marketing Woman of the year by the Chartered Institute of Marketing in 1995.

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. In 2006, Dr. Adomako had to leave to undertake postgraduate studies abroad. Thus, she handed over to Dr. Elsie Effah Kaufmann, whom she had recommended.

Dr. Kaufmann, the current quizmistress is the head of the Biomedical Engineering Department, at the University of Ghana, Legon. Over the past ten years, she has succeeded in bringing her own style to the programme, occasionally injecting some humor into an otherwise formal programme.

Past Winners

A key element of the National Science & Maths Quiz is claiming the bragging rights as national champions of Science and Maths. Presbyterian Boys’ Secondary School (Presec) leads the chart, having won the quiz five times (1995, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2009). It definitely is no mean achievement!

However, it was Prempeh College which first won the title in 1994 and in 1996. Opoku Ware School won the 1997 and 2002 editions and Achimota School won the 1998 and 2004 editions. In 1999, Mfantsipim School won its first title. The editions of 2000 and 2001 were won by St. Peter’s Secondary School and Pope John Secondary School respectively. St. Peter’s later won the 2005 edition of the quiz.

In 2007, St. Augustine’s College were crowned proud winners, while Ghana Secondary Technical School won the 2012 edition and St. Thomas Aquinas picked up the 2013 edition. Mfantsipim School won the 19th edition in 2014, making them the reigning champions.

Sponsorship of the Programme

From 1993-1998, the quiz was sponsored by Brillant Soap, produced by then Lever Brothers. It is for this reason that the quiz was christened the “Brillant Science & Maths Quiz”, relating the soap’s name to the brilliance of the students who participated in the programme. The name of the quiz changed to the National Science & Maths Quiz in 1998, after Ghana Breweries Limited (GBL) became main sponsors, using the competition to promote Amstel Malta.  GBL stayed on till 2001.

From 2001 to 2008, the Ministry of Education, through the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund), took up the mantle of sponsorship. Primetime, producers of the programme, however, used its own funds to produce and air the 2009 edition of the quiz, after GETFund pulled out of the programme and no corporate organization was willing to invest in such an educational programme. This seeming lack of interest in the programme by corporate entities led to a break in the quiz’s production in 2010 and 2011, as the large budget, necessitated by the logistic support needed for the programme was too much for Primetime to bear alone.

It was in 2012 that the Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS), with the approval of the board of the Ghana Education Service took up the sponsorship of the programme. It is worthy of note that CHASS is a body made up of heads of all public second-cycle institutions and their sponsorship is a clear indication of how important they consider the National Science & Maths Quiz to be.

With this year’s edition only a few days away, we can only expect the bar to be raised this year, as the National Science & Maths Quiz keeps getting bigger and better. We look forward to more exciting contests, mouthwatering prizes and an ecstatic audience

Source: National Science & Maths Quiz



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