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Ghana TV quiz promotes math and science

Popular high school math and science competition takes country by storm.

Mensa-Bonsu, the producer, is optimistic the next competition is on. He is talking with headmasters and potential private sector sponsors, knowing that government funding is limited.

After all, especially in math and science, Ghana's education system is not Manchester United.

On one hand, a recent report from the government and the U.N. Development Program maintains Ghana can achieve the Millennium Development Goal for universal primary education by 2015. But the same report laments that the “quality of Science and Technology education is falling and has affected students’ interest in the discipline.”

Ghana’s eighth-graders scored last (science) and second-to-last (math) in a 2007 international assessment of nearly 50 countries. And the U.S. Peace Corps, citing a shortage of qualified Ghanaian teachers, makes a point of placing volunteers in math and science teaching positions.

But the quiz and its participants operate on another plane.

“The competition has made math and science more interesting,” claims Dzidefo Afram, a physics teacher at the Presbyterian Boys’ Secondary School.

Mensah-Bonsu tells of girls whose first encounter with a woman scientist was the quizmistress, and one student said the quiz show specifically turned him on to math and science.

“The quiz has had a large impact on the country,” said Peprah. “Parents are proud. Children are proud to see their friends on TV. Everyone is aspiring.”

While teams acknowledge pressure — “You wouldn’t return to school if you lost,” said student Joshua Aryee — students say they are “revered” on campus and believe the quiz’s wide-ranging subject matter gives them “the upper hand” at university and beyond.

For top quiz show graduates, opportunity follows expectations and fame. According to Peprah, students have swept up domestic medical school scholarships and study at the likes of Harvard and Cornell. They are legends.

“The quiz teams are the pride of the schools,” Peprah said. “They excel wherever they go.”