What is PAMO?

PAMO stands for Pan African Mathematics Olympiad. It is a commission of the African Mathematical Union (AMU) that is organized yearly in various African countries with the following goals:

• To popularize mathematics among the African youth
• To stimulate the love for mathematics
• To inculcate the liking of excellency
• To detect mathematical talent among the African youth

Last year’s PAMO was hosted by Senegal, while this year’s, the 17th PAMO, was hosted by Abuja, Nigeria from 5th to 15th April 2007. Next year, it will be hosted by Egypt in August.

Participating in PAMO
Normally, countries are invited to participate in PAMO by the President of PAMO/AMU who for sometime now has been Professor Nouzha El Yacoubi from Morocco. Countries are given deadlines to accept the invitation and submit a team of four high school students below the age of 20 on the day of the examination, a team leader and a deputy, both of whom must be teaching mathematics. Also, each country is allowed six problems to be sent to the President of PAMO and the chairman of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC). Teams from participating countries are fully sponsored by their governments, for example airfare and per diem expenses. The hosting country pays for accommodation, feeding, and transportation of the teams within the country.

The Olympiad
There is a Problems Committee made up of experts in organizing Olympiads and whose chairman moderates all activities. There is also a Jury made up of all country team leaders. On arrival in the host country, all team leaders are separated from their students until after the Olympiad. Access to all communication gadgets like mobile phones and internet services are not allowed. In fact, mobile phones are seized (even from team leaders) and handed over only after the competition.

The Jury and the Problems Committee members spend considerable time going through all the problems sent by the participating countries with the view of reducing them to twelve. Solutions to all the problems and their marking schemes are discussed and agreed on. It is then the duty of the Problems Committee members to reduce the twelve questions to six, which are not known to the Jury until after the competition has started. Four and half hours are given for solving three problems at a sitting. There are two sittings on different days. Marking of scripts of teams are by their team leaders and begins immediately after the problem solving session. The marks given must be defended by the team leader before the Problems Committee members.

Each problem is scored over seven. Total marks are found for each student and for each country. The top three students are awarded gold, the next five are awarded silver and the next eight are awarded bronze. For countries, the top gets gold, the next silver, and the third gets bronze.

Participating Countries
Countries that participated in the 17th Pan African Mathematics Olympiad include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, and Ghana. The rest were Mali, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe.

Ghana’s participation
Ghana participated for the first time this year. MathNED took two students, one male from Labone Secondary School, Ransford Damptey, and a female from Accra Girls Secondary School, Florence Omari. Parents of the students had to pay for all costs involved in their wards’ participation. Ghana did not win any medals as a country and as individual students. There was no way total marks of two first-timer students could beat total marks of four students from other countries. However, Ghana was highly commended for taking the initiative to participate and for parents bearing the costs involved. As such, it was proposed that a training session for students in ECOWAS countries should be organized in Ghana before the next PAMO in Egypt.

It was an eye opener for the students who participated. The international exposure was very valuable as they met students from other countries and compared notes on several fronts. For example, while other countries took PAMO seriously and camped their students for several months, few people in Ghana knew of PAMO. Nigeria camped her students for six months and they won the individual gold. South Africa camped their students for almost a year and they won the country gold. The standard of the problems are way above high school standards. So, how serious are we with our mathematics in Ghana? I hope we shall prepare more seriously towards the 18th Pan African Mathematics Olympiad to be held in Egypt next year.

One interesting occurrence was the frequent use of French in deliberations as most of the officials spoke French. I remember having to defend the marks of the students from Ghana using my O-level French while the official was also apparently using his O-level English. I was wondering how the students got along! The experience brings to the fore the need to popularize the study of French in Ghana.

To conclude, we need a serious and elaborate training program for our students before the next Olympiad. We shall need the sponsorship from corporate Ghana and any individuals who are interested MathNED’s efforts in revamping mathematics education in Ghana and providing international exposure to our students.

You may contact me through sitsofe@mathned.org for your support. You may transfer money into account #00001/02/600088/01 with the Makola Branch of the International Commercial Bank (SWIFT: INCEGHAC) or send cheques to MathNED, through Box NG 456, Nungua, Ghana.

God Bless You!

-Prof. S.E. Anku
Founder & Executive Director, MathNED

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