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NSMQ blues…

BY: Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng
     Prempeh College fan cheering on the school’s quiz team (left)     Presecans in a tense mood during the quiz (right)
Prempeh College fan cheering on the school’s quiz team (left) Presecans in a tense mood during the quiz (right)

This week, I am going to be a man of few words because I am in excruciating pain and I am mourning.

For the past seven days, I have had to grit my teeth and endure taunts and jeers from several of my ‘enemies’, all because my beloved Opoku Ware School lost out in one of the semi-final matches and had to pack out.

What made the pain worse was that it was at the hands of our arch-rivals from Kumasi’s Sofoline, Prempeh College.

But what made the pain excruciating is that the green boys went on to the cup for the fifth time!

Of course, in the build-up to what was effectively a Kumasi derby, and which included the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) SHS, this was the semi-final that had all the characteristics of a final and was the contest to watch.

Old boys in particular traded barbs and hyped their schools to the heavens. Inflated egos and many more were at stake and yet underneath it all, there was some trepidation in each camp. KNUST had effectively been ruled out as a major threat by both schools and a straight duel beckoned.

On Tuesday, I found myself in KNUST, not because I had the stomach to watch the contest at the Business School, but rather that I had an official duty to perform right next door.

I had to leave for Accra before the contest started, but quite a number of students and old boys from each school were milling around, and the numbers were set to increase.

Eventually they did, and the ‘jama’ rose to a fever pitch behind the barricades, from what I saw subsequently on television.

‘Any school but…’

Given my big mouth and noise on Facebook, a lot of people made a beeline for my wall as soon as it was over and we had been eliminated.

I had earlier on mercilessly teased Achimota, Mfantsipim, St Augustine’s and Adisadel when they were unceremoniously uprooted from the competition, so I knew I was a target for enemy action if we dared lose.

Well, we did lose and I got my comeuppance.

Naturally, once Prempeh had eliminated us and qualified for the final, it was imperative that I support any school, but Prempeh to win the cup.

I was not persuaded by the claim by some that we should rally behind Prempeh in an ‘Ashanti Alliance’ to keep the cup in the region – ‘Host and Win’, they said.

Many Prempeh boys would have done the same if the tables were turned, and I would perfectly understand.

After all, I am not sure Hearts or Kotoko supporters rally behind each other if the other team faces an important international match.

In my ‘anyone but Prempeh’ campaign I vigorously mounted on Facebook, I flew the Keta Senior High Technical School flag.

Even though one of my brothers attended Presec (Legon), I could not quite bear to see them clinch the trophy for the seventh time.

Plus I have a certain love for underdogs.

Alas, the gods did not smile on my vigorous ‘against’ campaign and Prempeh won the cup.

I have not known peace since then from the Sofoline boys.

I think I will report them to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for noise pollution.

Quiz

I think the NSMQ is going to be around for a very long time.

For many, the bragging rights of a win and the attendant teasing for losses all add up to the excitement and fun of something we can all rally around and have a laugh over, even though over 90 per cent of us do not understand the questions asked, rather exploding with joy and pumping the air when our students get it right.

The final stages of the competition presented quite a relief (albeit temporary) from the long arguments of the controversial e-levy and other political fights.

Of course we are not just back to the levy arguments, but have scaled it up to drama in Parliament over the budget.

Perhaps this is one of the remaining few institutions that have not been sullied by partisan politics, and long may it remain so.

The arguments about whether this competition enforces rote learning to the disadvantage of innovative thinking and practicality are matters for education experts to consider.

For me, the core issues are which school sets which records, who receives creative taunts, who gets bragging rights and above all, the nail-biting drama that accompanies certain key contests.

I am still mourning. But next year, which is our 70th anniversary, Opoku Ware will bounce back with venom. Just watch this space.

Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng,
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