A Senior Lecturer and Founding Head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Ghana, Legon, Dr Elsie Effah Kaufmann, has recommended a comprehensive study into why girls’ senior high schools (SHSs) miss out as winners of the popular National Science and Mathematics Quiz (NSMQ).
Dr Effah Kaufmann, who is the Quiz Mistress of the NSMQ, said although girls from some girls’ schools in Ghana had often emerged winners at the annual West African Examinations Council (WAEC) Distinction Awards, they did not win when it came to the NSMQ.
“It’s unfair, it’s not right. There have been several hypotheses. At first, we thought it was the atmosphere—yelling, trolling and intimidation from the crowd. But this year those inferences were not that many.
“Due to COVID-19 the numbers were reduced but still it didn’t happen this year. I was thinking it was the year for the girls to shine because all that noise was cut off to a minimum but unfortunately it still didn’t happen,” she said when she appeared on the GraphicTalks360, a production by Graphic News Plus App, hosted by the Deputy Editor of the Graphic Business, Charles Benoni Okine. (The full interview is presently streaming live on dailygraphic facebook live)
She deduced there might be something else at play and so it should be investigated.
“Maybe the way in which they prepare, it may be just the idea of competition and it’s possible the girls may not see the value of the competition compared to the boys. I try to motivate them; sometimes I’m invited to schools to talk,” she said.
Girls and STEM
She said that using everyday opportunities to teach science and to study science could make it friendly.
“We need to change the way that we introduce and teach the subject. We have science all around us but we may not be aware of this. If we knew that every aspect of our lives was based on science it would not be so mysterious to us,” she said.
Why a scientist?
Dr Kaufman recalled that curiosity led her to be a scientist.
She always loved to explore as a child. As she got older, she realised that science was very useful.
“If you want to change the world, for example, as an engineer like me, you can think of what next and come up with things to help change society. I thought it was a very powerful tool to have to be able to understand the world around us and help to change it,” she explained.
She contributed immensely towards the development of science education at all levels in Ghana and beyond and has been the host and quiz mistress of the NSMQ since 2006.
As a researcher, she has undertaken works on engineering education, design of scaffolds for tissue engineering applications, characterisation of natural materials and the application of biomedical engineering concepts to addressing problems in the Ghanaian context.
She is currently the President of the Ghana Society of Biomedical Engineers, among others.
Her day at Graphic
When she appeared as the guest editor of the Daily Graphic on Wednesday, October 14, 2020, as part of the 70th-anniversary celebration of the paper, she said it was an amazing time for her, especially when she chaired two conferences, went round to see facilities on the company’s premises and met with the teams that work together to bring out the product daily.
“I am impressed, it is amazing; you are hard-working. I am happy and honoured to get the opportunity to see all that you do. You are constantly under pressure because you have to deliver at all times,” she said.
Dr Kaufman said that as an engineer, she looked forward to the next 70 years to seeing Graphic’s adoption of technology.
She said there should be more participation by involving students to develop some of the things that were used—the paper and plate for printing could all be produced here in Ghana by Ghanaians.
“I’m looking forward to seeing technology improved and our own people involved in the improvement of technology to make your work even better,” she said.
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