It promises to be a clash of the Titans this afternoon when three senior high schools (SHSs) face off in the grand finale of the 2020 National Science and Maths Quiz (NSMQ), arguably the country’s biggest and most patronised academic contest at the high school level.
In an all-boys’-school affair, the Presbyterian Boys’ SHS (PRESEC), Legon, the Opoku Ware SHS (OWASS) and Adisadel College (ADISCO) will contest for the bragging rights in a quiz that promises mouth-watering excitement and academic wizardry.
Curiously, with the exception of 1998 and 2004 when a mixed school, Achimota (MOTOWN), won the coveted prize, no mixed or girls’ school has ever won the contest.
This year’s grand finale pairing has interesting significance.
For starters, all the three schools are mission schools set up by the oldest orthodox churches in the country.
PRESEC, which warmed its way out from the Greater Accra Region, is one of the many educational institutions the Presbyterian Church has established, while OWASS, which worked its path from the Ashanti Region, is from the Catholic stable, with ADISCO being an educational institution of the Anglicans, representing the country’s citadel of secondary education, the Central Region.
Interestingly, past students of contesting schools have, over the years, taken a keen interest in the quiz and strongly supported their alma maters, with some engaging in informal bets over who would win the contest.
It is also trite knowledge that some of the schools that do well in the contest owe their performance to the enormous long-term investment in preparing the students for the contest and other academic challenges.
It is expected that both current and past students of contesting schools will throng the Cedi Conference Centre of the University of Ghana, Legon, the epic centre of the contest, to cheer their contestants on.
Unfortunately, this year, the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced the euphoria that usually characterises the contest to traditional and social media, unlike in previous years when supporters massed up in their numbers at the quiz venues to cheer on their preferred contestants.
At today’s grand finale, only card-bearing members of the public, including past students, will be allowed into the hall, as the concept owner and producer, Primetime Limited, is firm on following strict COVID-19 protocols.
It is yet to be seen whether PRESEC will be lucky to pick the trophy for a sixth record time. The school is so far the most successful in the quiz, with five titles, having been to the final for a record eight times, today being its ninth appearance at the final.
OWASS, two-time champions, is not a pushover, as many have tipped it to snatch a treble at the expense of PRESEC and ADISCO, who are hungry for the trophy for the second time.
Moderating in the fairest and most balanced of postures will be the eloquent, knowledgeable and adept Quiz Mistress, Dr Elsie Effah Kaufmann, who will have the onerous responsibility of setting the contest brimming at exactly 2 p.m., with thousands of viewers and followers glued to their television and radio sets and various social media platforms to catch every moment of the final of the 2020 NSMQ.
OWASS got to the final after securing 55 points to ward off stiff challenge from Accra Academy, which followed closely with 38 points, and Boa Amponsem SHS, which secured 10 points.
The 2016 champions, ADISCO, narrowly secured its place at the final after beating its closest contender, Achimota School, by a point, with Achimota getting 20 points.
Meanwhile, PRESEC had the easiest task when it came up against Kumasi Academy and Aburi Secondary Technical School. At the end of the contest, PRESEC secured 66 points, against Kumasi Academy’s 38 and Aburi Sec. Tech’s 18.
As we anticipate yet another keen contest, the challenge is for both the mixed and the girls’ schools to up their game and prepare adequately for the contest.
Ironically, over the years, students from the girls’ schools have dominated the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) Excellence Awards, winning many of the awards, yet they have not been able to translate that into sweeping the prestigious quiz contest.
Aside from the prestige, fame and the bragging rights to be enjoyed by the overall winning school, the contestants will be richer by over GH¢40,000 from the head sponsors, the Ghana Education Service and the Absa Bank, while their school will receive GH¢80,000, with their teachers, for training and coaching the contestants, also being richer by GH¢40,000, while the second-placed school will receive GH¢60,000, with the teachers and the contestants receiving GH¢32,000 apiece.
The school that places third will be rewarded with GH¢40,000, while the teachers and the contestants will get GH¢25,000 apiece.
An amount of GH¢20,000 will go to the Best Performing Girls' School, courtesy the Newmont Ghana Award, while the Prof. Marian Ewurama Addy Award of GH¢3,000 goes to the Best Team, sponsored by Bubune Adih.
Additionally, the Most Outstanding Female Contestant will receive the Prof. Henrietta Mensah-Bonsu Award of GH¢5,000, while teachers of the less-endowed school that went the farthest will receive the Jacob & Elizabeth Banful Memorial Award for the Most Impressive Run School, which comes with GH¢7,000.