In the first edition of the 2014 Institute of Child Health monthly seminar (6th March 2014), Dr. D.U Nwaneri, Research Fellow 1 with the Institute of Child Health, University of Benin discussed giftedness in the Nigerian educational system. He addressed an audience of health care workers, secondary school students, and their teachers. He said the objectives of the lecture were- to enable an understanding of education in the contemporary Nigerian society, compare giftedness to mental subnormality and to highlight the fact that children in both categories often have similar challenges in academic performance and potential for life.
He defined education as a process of bringing about behavioral change by giving information. The intelligence he said refers to general mental capacity. He referred to article 12 of the child rights Act which stipulates among others the right of the child to education. He noted that education can be formal or informal and that education ensures a child achieves his/her full potential
He went on to describe the formal educational system in Nigeria which he said has evolved from the pre-independence period when elite schools were modeled after public schools in England through various stages. Nigeria has had the Pro-unitate Schools (Federal Schools), State Unity Schools, Special Science Schools, the Technical Schools, the 6-3-3-4 systems and now the 5-9-4 system. All these were in an effort to provide optimal education for her children. He, however, noted that many schools were in a sorry state with dilapidated buildings, poor infrastructure, widespread indiscipline amongst teachers and pupils, overcrowding, corruption, inequity in funding etc. He then presented statistics that showed that although there was 85% primary school and 44% Secondary school enrollment the net enrolment was 54% and 2.8% for primary and secondary schools respectively. Moreover, Nigeria had the highest number of children out of school globally with a figure of 10.5 million.
Dr. Nwaneri then highlighted the different tools used for evaluating intelligence but noted that the Draw a Person test was a simple test, validated for Nigerian children. The Draw a Person test can be used for children below 13 years. Intelligence can be classified based on the results of intelligence testing which are recorded as an intelligence quotient (IQ). Normal intelligence quotient he said ranges between 80 and 119. A child with an intelligence quotient above 120 is said to be gifted. In any population of school children, he noted that 1-2% will be expected to have very low IQ while the same proportion will also be expected to have high intelligence. Thus in a given population of school children, 1-2% will be gifted children
Giftedness he said if not properly handled can lead to impairment, or disability or handicap. Giftedness he noted is not only assessed based on academic potential but must also yield socially productive contribution. He then went on to list the attributes of Gifted children which include- above average general ability, high levels of task commitment high levels of creativity, advanced vocabulary for their age, being able to discuss their experiences in detail, ability to interject humor into discussions, comprehend abstract concepts, have high sensitivity to other people’s feelings and they have a good attention span.
Dr Nwaneri then highlighted the similarities between mentally challenged children and gifted children. He said they both constitute a small proportion of the school population. They can be handicapped. They have superimposed behavioral complications and potential for adult life can be compromised. He then stated that early identification of giftedness with appropriate interventions (such as special education) is a good option. He then suggested other ways of handling gifted children which include
– Ability grouping- as in special schools, or special classes in regular schools, flexible classes
– Acceleration- such as starting school early, skipping grades
– Good school health programme
Written and edited by Dr. Mrs. Ayebo SADOH (Associate Professor, ICH UNIBEN)

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