The euphoria was almost palpable. Renditions of hit songs tailor made to tout the prowess of each school represented at the venue were being sang simultaneously. Throngs of crowds kept on streaming into the venue as the already seated audience argued which finalist was going to win. Just outside the auditorium, an even larger crowd gathered around a white background projecting what was going to transpire inside the building. There was craning of neck all over with those who could not get front seat viewing finding space on the stairwells zigzagging across the building.
It was the finals of the National Math and Science Quiz (NSMQ), arguably the biggest event at the high school level in the country. It was not a basketball competition but it definitely had a March Madness feel to it. School authorities took a great interest in it, giving special treatment to students who represented them. While their colleagues in school ate the notorious Gaso, an awkward entrée made from flour, palm oil and lots of water, NSMQ representatives ate Jollof and every other healthy Ghanaian food.
Respective alumni had an even madder attachment to it. This was a lot about bragging rights. Who got to say his school was better than the other. WASSCE results was not enough to settle that debate. A quiz competition adjudicated on some of the most challenging subjects was needed. It was about workplace teasing to them. How they could all continue to gang up Accra Academy and mock them about their failures. Of all the so called big named Boy’s school, Academy was the only one without an NSMQ trophy.
The venue this year was the ginormous auditorium of the University of Ghana Business School. It was not enough to contain the teeming numbers there to root for their alma mater. The sprawled out audience and those ensconced inside were ready for the showdown. Time to determine whether Owass and Botwe could reach number three or Adisco could win their first.
It was five rounds of steaming regurgitation of scientific facts and recollecting mathematical formulas. Correctly answered question after question got the supporting crowd breaking out into ecstatic cheers. Wrong answers equally got the opposing crowd cheering. They cheered on like they understood what Titration was or how the flagella aided some organisms. You did not need a working understand of the physical sciences or mathematics to cheer your school on.
Round after Round, the race got keener. There was no telling who was coming out with this emphatically. It was not only the alumni of Owass, Adisco and Botwe in the crowd. There were those from Prempeh who were not going to have an Owass win. In the Ashanti region, those two had a feud over who was the best. An Owass win was going to put them on the same number of trophies as Prempeh. That was not a good thing for Prempeh.
As the day crawled its way past the Problem of the day section of the quiz, the winner was still not clear. It was going to come down to the penalties Brilla: The Riddles!!! The riddles were the most exciting part of the entire quiz. The points made off a riddle depends on the clue on which you answered it. First clue equaled 5 points. Second clue was 4 points and any other clue gave you 3 points. I always remember the 2009 final between Presec and Achimota where Presec virtually won the competition off the second clue. I do not remember the question but I will probably never forget the answer: OXIDATION NUMBER!!!
The projector showing the contest outside conveniently decided to go off just when it was time for the riddles and at that moment, it was impossible to scoot into the auditorium. National TV was not showing the contest and the radio station streaming it had cut the program for its midday news. Isn’t it sad how Scripps Spelling Bell, a tournament for pre-teens and early teens in the USA gets live coverage on one of the biggest channels in the world but the biggest national educational event in Ghana gets shown months after the contest on the least watched channel?
Getting piecemeal information from Twitter, Adisco’s win became apparent. The zebra boys started the charging. This time, it was all profane. God had done his part, it was now time for vanity in celebration. After years of waiting, the school on the hill had won its first trophy and it was a sight to behold.