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The Phenomenon Called Cowbellpedia

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By Temitayo Olofinlua

One Saturday evening in August after tortuous hospital rounds, my tired eyes stumbled on Cowbellpedia. That would be the beginning of an addiction. I looked forward to Saturdays because of it.

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What has “Cow” got to do with “Bell” and “encyclopedia”? The first two words will be found in an encyclopaedia; when put together, they can be found in the encyclopaedia of Nigerian products. Recently, the words had one thing in common: Mathematics.

Full disclosure: I have never liked Mathematics. In secondary school, I repeated a class for failing Maths. This paid off; I passed with a C6 in WAEC and NECO. But this is not about me, or my dislike for the subject. This is about how a TV quiz show that kept me entertained, by watching secondary school students crack Mathematical puzzles.

In this world where television is filled with booty shaking music videos, where reality shows are either about your beauty, how much you can sing or dance, it is exciting to find a cerebral show. Successful students from a nationwide Mathematics examination go through quiz rounds on the show, a test of knowledge, speed and accuracy.  Easy right?

There are many things to love about Cowbellpedia: the enchanting set design; the attention to detail; the format of the show and the dexterity of the quiz master. The easy-to-follow show has a simple format. Divided into junior and senior categories, all the students answered ten questions. Successful students proceed to the next stage: 60 Seconds of Fame, a test of speed, when students answer questions without options back-to-back in 60 seconds. If there is a tie, the students go on a 30 Seconds of Fame. This was my favourite part of the show truly; my heart beat faster as adrenaline pumped through my body. Skip! Skip! Skip!

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Quiz master, Oscar Oyinsan is not only vast in the art of hosting but interacting with students, studio and TV audience, all at once. He knows the right time to pause, catch his breath and listen. He gets the impact of (not) using negative words like “failed” with students. His presentation made the show a delight to look forward to every time. And the comic relief that I have to mention: how many of us have ever asked our parents for their results in examinations where they came first? Kudos to the script writer, Iyabo Gwam as well. Scripting makes a host shine brighter.

Let me speak about the finals of the show and the significance of preparation. About 50 percent of the finalists were from one school: The Ambassadors College, Ota. The winners of the junior category—Juliet Ekoko, Oreofe Daniel and Glory Okoli—all girls, hi-fived, when they were called for the last round. How cool? Did I mention that overall, there were more girls in the finals, how cool(er)?

In the senior category, the winner, Ayooluwa Oguntade, who is also the Head Boy of the school won. This is the first educational show that I will watch on Nigerian television with quality prizes. The first prize is 1million naira, a laptop and an educational trip; the second prize is N750, 000 with a laptop; the third prize is N500, 000 and desktop computers. There were also prizes for their Mathematics teachers and schools. Who says a teacher’s reward is in heaven? Not with Cowbellpedia.

From the beginning of the show, one could tell that there was something peculiar about The Ambassadors College (shame their website is down; I can’t link). The school fielded nine participants; six of whom made it to the finals. Year in, year out, the school has presented finalists for the competition. I found the school’s working potion: a Cowbellpedia Club that prepares students. Preparation, not luck, not prayers, is the school’s little secret. My son is only three years old but I am already drawing up a list of prospective secondary schools: guess which school is on the list?

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It is a good thing that Promasidor decided to bring Mathematics into our living rooms. It is encouraging that they are encouraging a Maths lifestyle. The show is over but students can still try their Mathematics muscles with the application. Promasidor’s Cowbellpedia potion is working: after a long time without Cowbell Milk, I bought it again, maybe it has something to do with watching the show; who knows?

The show may be over, just like schools like the Ambassadors, the organisers should go to sleep. It is time for more work. I think that they need to use the social media more to reach a wider audience. It is important to keep more people watching future editions—imagine how many students can be inspired, just by watching?

The Cowbellpedia Show says three key things. First, if you want your school to be taken seriously, you should be on the show. Second, it has also told us that being cerebral still pays. Third, Mathematics can be fun. The Cowbellpedia phenomenon should also inspire other organisations to take on such entertaining and educative programmes. This could go a long way in encouraging increased interest in learning among young Nigerians.

Did you watch the show? What do you think?

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