It all happened on a tennis court. Birthed out of the need to satisfy a man’s curiosity as to why birds could stand on a live electric wire without getting electrocuted, but human beings could not do same. If you care to know, that was how the National Science and Math Quiz (NSMQ), Ghana’s longest-running brand came to be.
Do you remember? The days of Professor Marian Ewurama Addy from 1993 to 2000? My mind pulls a blank. “Where were you then?” I hear my mind’s voice quizzing. How about the period of Quiz Mistress Eureka Emefa Adomako: 2001 to 2005? Yes, I do but faintly. However, I speak affirmatively, and with confidence, in responding to the same preamble with respect to the period of Prof. Elsie Effah Kaufmann from 2006 to this moment of writing, November 2021. Wow! That’s sixteen good years running.
In effect, the first batch of contestants Prof. Kaufmann engaged are currently of the average age of 17 plus 16. Please do the math and leave me alone. That reminds me. It was so refreshing to see Dr. Anita Oppong-Quaicoe, a 2005 contestant for Ghana National College, become one of the quiz mistresses at the preliminary stages from last year.
History is made
I doubt anyone would disagree with me. That NSMQ 2021 is historic. No! Since its inception in 1993, this is the very first time the national final is being held outside Accra; the first in Kumasi, the Garden City. And it is in that spirit this writing was inspired. Interestingly, with the primary focus not on the quiz mistress but rather the one-woman supporter for the quiz mistress: 78 year-old Mrs Grace Effah.
Anyone who has followed the NSMQ would observe that, perhaps up until the 2020 edition, Prof. Kaufmman had a signature sign-out remarks. Therein, she never forgot this particular line: “…Parents, including my own ‘mummy dearest’ thank you for your support”. Mummy Dearest is her mother, Grace Effah who was always in the audience.
During the 2019 contest, Multimedia’s Maxwell Agbagba threw the spotlight on Mama Grace, as I like to call her, when he interviewed her to understand why the name ‘powerhouse’. “The time is 6:56 am on the day of the Semi-final contest at R.S. Amegashie Auditorium. She will sit through all three contests and leave with her at 7pm. But what keeps [the powerhouse] glued to her seat?” Agbagba interrogated.
And she minced no words: “It is not because I am enjoying the quiz oh. I am there always to make sure I pray for her. That’s my business…I am there for [my daughter] not because of the contest or for anybody. I am there to support her. All the schools come there with their supporters. They sing [and] make noise. I am the only supporter on her side”. And this dedication of a mother to pray for her daughter would earn her the nickname the ‘Powerhouse’. A name the late Prof. Ebenezer Kweku Awotwe originated.
The story is different today. Mummy dearest, the Powerhouse, has had to monitor proceedings from home on Joy News TV. “Almighty COVID-19”, in the interest of her own safety, has restricted, if not denied her entry to the contest venue. In effect, the Quiz Mistress has lost her only supporter in the live audience. “Chaley, where dey the Powerhouse?” And that is significant a question. Here is why.
The unwanted threats
“After every competition, the losers think it’s the quiz mistress that did it so every year, I get accusations. Sometimes, I get hate mail and it comes from all over the place, you’ll be surprised…this has happened so many times that I am used to it now” That is Prof. Kauffman speaking in a post-contest interview with Rev. Erskine on the Myd-Morning Radio Show on YFM last year. You may wonder: Are Ghanaian senior high students that audacious to undertake such actions? That’s a good question and here’s the answer: “It’s the supporters. The old boys. Somebody from some year group in the 1970s, sitting in some country elsewhere will send me hate mail because their team lost and it was me being biased and intimidating their students” Prof. Kaufmann continues.
I use this opportunity to draw the attention of Primetime to ensure that maximum security is provided at the Semi-finals and the finals. Especially what has been dubbed the Kumerica derby, the last Semi-final contest: KNUST SHS-Prempeh College-Opoku Ware School. The last for the day, to end when darkness beckons.
KNUST SHS have every right to claim the landlord title. And I need not waste thought on the friendly-rivalry between Prempeh College and Opoku Ware School. That is the contest to look out for. On one hand, this “friendly-rivalry” will make it exciting and exhilarating. But, on the other hand, it gives me a cause for concern. Concern for the Quiz Mistress. I know how rowdy some of us become due to the outcome of the contest. The stakes are high and so must the security briefing. If you ever imagine that I may be exaggerating then it is one of two things: either you did not witness it, or if you did you could not appreciate the import of that incident of the 2017 finals at the National Theatre in Accra.
“Barely 48 hours after Dr. Elsie Effah Kauffman, quiz mistress of the National Science & Maths Quiz lost her bag and its valuable content at the grand finale of the contest, Citi News has learnt that her ID cards and purse have been found…They were dropped at the University of Ghana by an unknown person. The found purse contained her drivers’ license and ATM cards, however, the money was taken” recounted Jonas Nyabor.
That incident prompted an action the following year, 2018. Here’s an account by Graphic online: “To help prevent a repeat of last year’s incident, where the quiz mistress of the National Science and Maths Quiz, Dr. Elsie Effah Kaufmann lost her handbag in the midst of jubilation after the winners were declared, armed police personnel were deployed this year to protect her”.
Call for protection
Like many others, I have been following the Kumasi edition online. I have had the opportunity to read through the commentaries that follow the outcomes of the contests. It was one such comment that gingered me to put this out. Even though in the JoyNews coverage of the last quarter final I spotted some uniformed military men, I am however, yet to see the personal security assigned to quiz mistress.
It is significant to note, however, that these potential downsides do not, and should not take anything away from the enormous benefits the NSMQ presents us as a nation. What an opportunity to observe how much allegiance we have for our respective institutions where we obtained our secondary level education. I pause here to make special mention of Mr. Ben Dotsei Malor. Uncle Ben, as any Ghanaian youth will call him, is currently the Chief Editor of Dailies, United Nations News under the Department of Global Communications in New York. “May KETASCO win National Science and Maths Quiz, NSMQ. Dzo Lali – Fly Now” he wrote on Facebook.
The question is: Why would a man of such grand reputation add his voice, without an invitation, to a quiz conversation by high school students? That is the point of my point. NSMQ is no more only a quiz. Perhaps, it was in 1994 when Prempeh College won the championship for the very first time. But as it stands today, the brand has garnered far more significance than a quiz. Take a closer look at the number of corporate entities that have found value in associating with the NSMQ brand.
The bragging rights
Can I write on NSMQ and not touch on this – the bragging rights? Naaa. Time for the news. Good news. That I am an old boy of the presidential college — Prempeh College. If you care to know, yes, I wore the green shirt decorated with the iconic crest with the symbolism of the cross from the Presby-Methodist missions and the golden stool from Asanteman. “Suban Ne Nimdeɛ it rings…character and integrity” the college anthem says. Wait a minute. Are you jealous? Sorry. I didn’t mean to be mean. But need I remind you President J.A. Kufour, the gentle giant, is a Senior? They call us Amanfoɔ! I could go on and on but I will stop here and wish the boys well. Their victory today could lead us to the much awaited fifth victory. The victory to #Glori5TheLord. Ok, let me end it here and pray.
It is my sincere prayer that the celebrations that surround the victory in Kumasi, no matter which school comes tops, must be with decorum devoid of any form of hostility and abuse – towards one another and towards the quiz mistress. Having gone through the highs and lows of the emotional eruptions that come with the quiz for sixteen years now, Prof. Kaufmann, coupled with her strong personality may not be perturbed by such direct and indirect threats. Granted. But one woman does. Her 78-year old mother Mrs. Grace Effah does. The Powerhouse prays! I pray.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Evans Adu-Gyamfi is the Brand Strategist for OctaneDC Limited (an investment and fund management firm regulated by Ghana’s Securities and Exchange Commission). In 2016, Evans founded Great-Age Global, a social enterprise with the aim to “address the needs of the elderly in society by harnessing the potential of youth power”. You may contact him on +233 (0)246480040 or via email: [email protected]