The last few days have seen many re-ignite their love and root for the various second-cycle institutions that helped place them in the respective stations they currently occupy in life.
The National Science and Maths Quiz (NSMQ), 2015 edition.
In most schools, the competition is simply known as ‘Brilla’, after the ‘Brilliant’ brand of soap which, for a considerably long while, was headline sponsor of the programme. Thus, the competitors are known among the student fraternity in many places as the ‘Brilla [boys]’.
Theirs has always been a revered rank occupied only by themselves, occasionally leaving even the ‘feared’ prefectorial board itself feeling a little inferior.
In most schools, these are just short of royalty. Irrespective of how just how endowed the school is, these lads are usually treated to the best of available resources. You don’t mess with one of ’em ‘Brilla boys’, not because they have the powers of prefects or the brawn of school rogues, but because they are the institution’s most treasured breed — custodians of the brains that would hopefully bring home the coveted prize.
Generally, such ones are marked for such privileges on their very first day of admission. They have the best grades from the Basic Education Certificate Examination (B.E.C.E), the kind you realize could only come from natural genius and not ‘apor’-enhanced performances.
Needless to say, they are admitted for the General Science programme — no prizes for guessing that.
In truth, though, there are quite a lot of them initially, and it takes some time for the proverbial ‘kramo papa’ to be distinguished from the smock-wearing lot. It is from that pool that a nucleus of Einsteins is drawn, courtesy academic results over the first few terms in school.
Back at Prempeh College where I schooled, for instance, students who had terminal average scores above 79 (the cut-off mark was once as high as 80) at the end of the second year were made to write tests on the sciences to, as it were, justify their inclusion, and the 18 with
the highest scores selected afterwards and anointed for the ‘Brilla’.
Once the grain is sieved off from the chaff — by which time the identity of the former is quite well-known to all — the grooming process commences in earnest to get them ready for the NSMQ due their year of completion [the contest is actually only held sometime after
the participating students complete their West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE)].
And what strenuous work goes into it!
The boys are trained, apparently not just with a view to sharpening their minds, but also to make them well-rounded gentlemen. Well, I’m not too sure of the latter but, given that I never really saw a rowdy ‘Brilla’ in my time, I could only conclude so.
To be very certain, however, I found an ‘insider: a ‘Brilla’ of the 2011 batch of graduands, and a contemporary of this writer at Prempeh. Enoch Addo Asare is his name, but ‘Olembe’ (yes, even the serious ‘Brilla boys’ entertained and responded to some of the most amusing nicknames) we called him — just don’t ask me why.
“We had special classes with our tutors, and special shortcut techniques were taught to aid us quickly solve certain questions in the calculating subjects [namely, Physics, Chemistry, and
Mathematics],” Asare reveals.
But didn’t the extra hours they were required to put in for ‘Brilla’ duties interfere with normal schoolwork, though?
Apparently not, for as Asare explains, it did have just the opposite effect.
“I wouldn’t say the ‘Brilla’ impacted negatively on our personal studies,” he says. “In fact, it gave us a broader perspective on things taught in regular class and that helped make studies for the
WASSCE easier, too. If anything, we only had a slight edge over our ‘non-Brilla’ colleagues in the science classes.”
There is much more to being a ‘Brilla’ than solving complex equations in seconds or memorizing scores of Physics formulae, though. As indicated earlier, there are perks that make it a lot of fun.
At Prempeh — winners of the maiden contest and finalists in three of the competition’s first four years — the ‘Brilla’ have their own room, furnished with sparse furniture (little more than mattresses and desks, really), a television, a ‘deck’ used in playing inspiring and enlightening VHS-type cassettes of some of the school’s best ‘Brilla’ adventures of the past.
Not exactly a palace setting, true, but still regal enough for the average student to covet. And, oh, they also had meals reserved for their exclusive consumption in the Dining Hall.
For Asare and his elite peers, however, it wasn’t to be. Challenges, presumably of a financial sort, prevented the 2011 edition of the competition from happening. The hard work — and the little accompanying luxuries — failed to pay off, although they surely would have fancied a shot at making a name for themselves and the College.
Of course, they were.
Says Asare: “We were reasonably disturbed, particularly after training for two full years and being thus desirous of making an impact in a Quiz we felt ready for.
“Undeterred, we overcame that rather sad development and channeled all we had into the WASSCE. And I can proudly say most of the ‘Brilla boys’ of our year group are making fine progress, with many studying in medical schools across the nation.”
This year, however, Prempeh has featured and made its appearance count, having reached all the way to the final where victory in a duel with Adisadel College and University Practice SHS in the competition’s recently introduced three-school format would see them finally add to their two titles, the last of which came some 19 years ago, and place them alongside Legon PRESEC as the only schools to have won the competition more than twice.
‘Olembe’, now himself a fifth-year student at the School of Medical Sciences, KNUST-KATH, does believe his successors can pull it off.
“They can bring the prestigious trophy back to where it belongs after all the years of heartbreak and near-misses,” he concludes with much confidence and a smile.
May the best school win (you know who I’d be backing, though, right?), then, and the names of these gifted, excelling boys forever remembered in the annals of their schools and — even as they soar to greater heights in subsequent years — of this nation by extension.
Source: Sammie Frimpong/starrfmonline.com/103.5FM