FEATURE: Brilliant NSMQ students and their obsession with medical school

The National Science and Maths Quiz NSMQ has been able to capture the hearts of Ghanaians, in the way and manner only the Blackstars were able to, and I would like us to think and reflect on these issues suitable for this moment before the fire dies out.

So having been on campus when the competitions begun, I was at one of the outdoor socialisation games held for the schools involved.

I ended up making some new friends with some of them who hoped to enter the University of Ghana.

To my dismay, most of the contestants I interacted with all wanted to pursue Medicine in UG.

We are all familiar with stories of many brilliant chaps not getting into Medical School even with their excellent WASSCE results; or sometimes too, students having to move from KNUST to LEGON during their 2nd or 3rd year to pursue Medicine or vice versa. Two of my own brilliant course mates moved after 2years of nursing school to pursue Medicine in KNUST.

I think Medicine is a great course, however, I believe if we want to be a prosperous nation, we need more and more of world class trained science related professionals such as Engineers of all kinds and other pure science and pure maths related professionals.

Last year a member of Prempeh’s Brilla’ team got 8As but was rejected for UGMS and was given Biomedical engineering instead. He was devastated though his parent were hopeful that he will be successful with a reapplication this year, the public outrage meant a lot.

So I did a little research on biomedical engineering to help my little ‘Brilla’ sweetheart.

In fact in my opinion I found the course more fascinating than his dream medicine course, and foresaw a much more rewarding career life for him if he’s able to at least graduate with an upper in UG and got the chance to further abroad.

With lots of persuasive talking and literal begging at a point, I decided to introduce him to a friend of mine who had done an MSc. in an engineering course at Cambridge University (to be his inspirational mentor) and also got him a level 400 friend of mine ending his biomedical engineering bachelors who was more exposed to the UG system in that respect.

He was encouraged and begun to do his own investigations into the course and found out more details about an exciting career he could build out of biomedical engineering.

He then decided voluntarily, to abandon the plans to reapply to Medical School.
Inasmuch as his parents weren’t too happy over that , they strongly believe in the potential of their son to excel at whatever he decides to do.

He accepted my challenge to him- to aim at graduating with a First Class or at least an Upper: although only 9 people have made it out of biomedical engineering with a 1st class since the inception of the course in 2004/2005 academic year.

So far he’s on track and I believe so much that he would make it.

However, how about all the other brilliant chaps who will not have the encouraging encounter of support and of peaking of their interest in the subjects they have been “dumped in”?

Those who will find themselves in the pure chemistry class, statistics class and the various engineering programs- as medical school “rejectees”?

Should they keep reapplying to Medical School?

Or wait and bait, and hope the new fashionable Graduate Entry Medical Program GEMP will console them?

I think it’s about time we get SHS leavers to know about the wide variety of science course available in our universities; their prospective career paths in the various field, and have them choose these courses freely and willingly- rather than, PUSH them into those (far brilliant) courses as medical school “rejectees”.

In fact I believe the other way round is more probable.

In addition we must find a means of making these courses more student- friendly once they enrol on them.
I don’t know why, but it is very difficult for people (we all knew were very brilliant) to come out of these course with a first class or even Upper divisions.

Not because they stopped being brilliant when they entered university, but because first of all, they are demoralised from the start and to add insult to injury, it seems they must work and learn ( In some case chew baba) to “breaking point” just to excel in these course (which surprisingly are easy for them at the masters level abroad).

This is because majority of lecturers in these course do not teach to “pleasing point” yet they are Over-The-Top hard to please!

I am not sure about KNUST/ UCC but in LEGON the number of Graduates we have from these Science and Maths and Engineering-related courses is nothing to write home about.

The fact of the matter is that the Ghanaian educational system does not support (to satisfaction) pure science, maths and engineering courses in the universities.

The way around it is to make it more easier for brilliant student to get the grades they require to further abroad or home.

Unfortunately however, Some ( In fact most) Ghanaian Lecturers design the course to, as it were, bring out the worst in our brilliant chaps instead of bringing out the best.

The brilliant students end up with Lower or 3rd Class Degrees making it impossible or very difficult to further, and because career paths for these courses are also not advanced in our country, these graduates end up doing far less in jobs which are far below their brain power.

It is a pathetic situation and a vicious cycle which I want us to think about as we celebrate our Brilla boys and girls.

Let’s stand up and Speak about these things.

To Ghanaians:
Let’s not live for only the momentary joy and euphoria the NSMQ brings during those winning moments.

To our headmasters;
Let’s make sure our brilliant contestants and those who are not contesting but are equally brilliant are exposed to the varied options of courses and careers they could build in other fields.

To university management and government;
Let’s give our brilliant chaps a better experience in furthering their various interests at the university level.

To our Lecturers,
Let’s give them the opportunity to provide Ghana with a variety of world class professionals.


Janet Maame Serwaa Arkorful

The writer, is a Student-Nurse, and General Secretary of the University of Ghana Students Representative Council (SRC).