In the mid-1990s, I remember reading an article in the Ghanaian Chronicle by one of its columnists, Prof. P.A.V. Ansah. The title of the article was, ‘The Land where Success may be a high risk factor’and it was in reference to how the government of the day did not spare effort in attacking successful businessmen most of whom did not share in the ideology of the ruling party. 

Having previously read a quote from John F. Kennedy during a press conference that, “Victory has hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan” and another by the historian Tacitus who once said, “This is an unfair thing about war: victory is claimed by all, failure to one alone”, I was indeed intrigued. I struggled to synchronize the two. Some events in the last year or two have since given me a much clearer sense of what those two statements indeed meant. 

By virtue of the role I play on the National Executive Council of the St. Augustine’s Past Students Union (APSU), I had witnessed at first hand the enormous pressure placed on both the College Management, quiz handlers, alumni leadership and others about the abysmal failure of our National Science and Maths Quiz (NSMQ) in recent years. I recollect how in 2017 for example, the team had virtually been left stranded with their Co-ordinator (Japheth Osiakwan) after their loss in the preliminary contest with St. Louis Senior High School and St. Peter’s Senior High School. The taunts on social media was massive – How low has the mighty fallen! The level of abandonment was palpable and it took a lot of encouragement to get the team’s composure to be worked on before returning to base. 

For the next one year, a lot more effort and concentration was devoted to NSMQ preparations only to be hit with an even deadlier blow. The team had prepared so well and yet did not even qualify from the Central Region for the national competition. The pressure this time was not only from ‘trollings’ by our rival secondary schools but even more from APSUnians who felt extremely disappointed about the upset. The quest by the premier Catholic College to redeem its image had been badly dented and something needed to be done urgently. Thankfully, the various stakeholders teamed up and took the necessary measures to overhaul the entire NSMQ infrastructure. The College brand as far as NSMQ was concerned had been so battered that even securing schools to undertake trial contests could sometimes be formidable and this was obvious because the Augusco NSMQ brand was not attractive. Nonetheless, the team did not lose hope but kept pressing.

In March 2019, the College team moved out to ‘enemy territory’ (Mfantsipim School) to seek a much-needed slot to be able to join the league of men as far as bragging rights for elite Science and Maths at the second-cycle was concerned. The boys beat off the stiff competition and qualified for the national competition. 

Apparently, the organizers, Prime Time Ghana had introduced Regional Championships for all the qualifying schools (including the seeded ones from 2018); and the Central Region was the first stop for this novel competition. All the schools converged on Mfantsipim School once again and this time, our boys (both past and current) were there in very high spirits. The journey had indeed began and on a solid note! 

The College boys were much more inspired at this stage and they whipped Apam Senior High School, Ghana National College, Breman Asikuma Senior High School and Boa-Amponsem Senior High School in their first regional contest. In the finals of the regional competition, though at par with University Practice Senior High School at the end of the first round and Wesley Girls High School trailing with 14 points, the Augusco boys hopped into the lead in the second round and at this stage, they could not be stopped by anyone. They won the final round with a whopping 50 points with UNIPRA on 31 points and Wesley Girls managing with 28 points. Augusco had breasted the tape and nothing could deny the College of some wild jubilation. Interestingly, Mfantsipim School could not be bothered because in their view, Augusco had only managed to win because balloting process did not enable them to meet the ‘School’.

Well, the other Regional Championships took place in the Ashanti and Greater Accra Regions. Interestingly, a certain Central ‘Super-Regional’ Competition was held which was won by Mfantsipim and that was enough for them to claim superiority over the College. How a mere non-recognized regional trials could all of a sudden become the decider on superiority was anyone’s guess. Well, the next stop would be Accra where the real action was to be and indeed it was.

On 11thJune 2019, the 2019 edition of the NSMQ was launched in grand style in Accra, followed by the arrival of the 108 participating schools during the following two days. Being on the campus of Ghana to welcome our team which had arrived very quietly and getting itself acclimatized to the environment, I witnessed quite a number of interesting things. Some schools that believed that they literally owned the competition had arrived on the campus with razzmatazz, pomp and pageantry. I remember telling a colleague how disappointed they were all going to be.  

The Science and Technology Fair was then held followed by balloting for the Preliminary Contests a few days thereafter paving the way for friendly hostilities to begin. The boys had been handed an Augusco-Walewale Senior High School-Bolga Senior High School debut and they quickly sent a message that the permutation could only be contrived by some mistaken belief. They secured 76 points while Big BOSS of Bolgatanga had managed 22 points with Walewale SHS gaining a paltry 18 points. At this stage, the College alumni were gearing up even more in their belief that the boys had indeed not come from Cape Coast to watch the sea (as my MOBA course mate once said). They were in for the kill but only few had recognized it. Interestingly whether by revelation or analysis, a few friends of mine noticed the emerging tsunami – Osofo Seth Fianko-Larbi (Amanfoo), Yaw Asamoah Akowuah (MOBA) and George Sarpong (Amanfoo) and they stuck their necks out with it. 

Balloting for the next round took place and an Augusco team mate picked Mfantsipim School for the One-Eighth. The entire R.S. Amegashie Auditorium was dead silent and then erupted into, ‘This is the finals before the final’. Well, the day came and contest was held and the speed with which Augusco kept its dominance was akin to the tide of the sea at dead of night. The boys finished round five with a 20-point gap over that scored by the ‘School’. As the Quiz Mistress described it to the Kwabotwe boys, ‘Ɔko no yɛ dzin’. Indeed, they had seen their real size and they just could not imagine their loss! The Augusco team was on cloud nine that whole evening. They sang, they clapped, they danced and they jumped and the celebration went deep into the night. For some, if that was the end of our campaign, they were ok but that was not to be. The boys had been fired up and nothing could stop them. Not even ‘Pragya’ and his colleague from Tamale at this stage could create any barriers. The Semi-Final berth had now been secured and neither the Ghana Secondary Technical School nor Keta Senior High School could mastermind any strategy to break up the College. 

At long last Augusco was once again in the Grand Finale of the NSMQ. The team had already won the hearts and minds of the entire country and everywhere one passed, the storyline was the same – Go AUGUSCO, Go! Augusco had indeed not just entered town but had conquered the entire country. Admiration for our three contestants, coaching staff and teeming mass of supporters had been massive!

The defending champions, St. Peter’s School had also qualified for the final just as PRESEC-Legon, which had bagged five previous victories. They thus adopted as their slogan, ‘No. 6’ while PERSCO shouted, ‘Back-to-Back’.  For the boys from Cape Coast, there was little time for slogans – the battle only remained forward. They were convinced that the ‘Egyptians’ were going to be formidable but as the Scriptures put it, ‘they that know their God shall be strong and exploits’and with that, the battle was finished.

Team Augusco did not disappoint and led the Grand Finale from round one through to the end of the contest. The contestants from PRESEC and PERSCO had been awe-struck and their supporters in the National Theatre had been mesmerized. To the Augusco fans, the extent of reverberation was a fitting memorial to the College’s 90thAnniversary Celebration which was just gathering steam. The team had finished the competition with at least three accolades – NSMQ 2019 Champions, Best Team Award and above all had kept its record of having participated in two finals and won both intact. The rest, they say is history! 

The NSMQ 2019 campaign has indeed reinforced that great lesson that success indeed has many friends whereas failure has none. My mind is sometimes cast back to 2017 when the team was booted out and the insults the team and its co-ordinators had to endure. This was even worse in 2018. But the same handlers in 2019 are heroes being touted and praised to the high heavens. How I wish that we’d all sometimes take a step back when things don’t go well in our favour so we can better appreciate the enormity of the challenges. This will help in determining the appropriate measures to be taken so as to ensure subsequent successes. 

For now, the team continues to bask in the glory and why not – it is well-deserved. To the Head of the Science and Mathematics Departments, Messrs Japheth Osiakwan, Isaac Adomako and Maxwell as well as all the staff of the two Departments, you have showed what hard work can do, in line with our motto. To the three contestants – Joseph Kwaku Mainoo Afful, Anthony Papa Eliason and Stephen Jimmy Newton, you are indeed our heroes who have epitomized the College motto, ‘Omnia Vincit Labor’ (i.e. ‘Perseverance conquers all’) and that only the best is good enough for St. Augustine’s College.

As Nana Agyemang Amponsah (APSU ‘06) puts it, the journey only remains forward!