Discovering Talents and Giftedness in Namibia








This week it’s the start of a new “adventure”, with regards to discovering talents in Namibia.  For those who are not familiar with giftedness let me give a few characteristics (MensaSA):

  • Reasons well
  • Excellent memory
  • Sensitive
  • Empathy
  • Perfectionistic
  • Morally sensitive
  • Very curious
  • Perseverance
  • High energy level
  • Great sense of humour
  • Keen observer
  • Vivid imagination
  • Highly creative
  • Tends to question authority
  • Facility with numbers
  • Good with puzzles
  • Highly alert to external environment

Most parents feel their children are bright, yes, I don’t disagree with that; however one need to keep in mind that a gifted child most likely has 85% or more of above and falls into the superior range (IQ 120 +) when tested.

My focus on this article includes the following, which may be important to understand talent/giftedness in Africa:

  • Background and various cultures
  • Knowledge and  success

Firstly, Namibia, like so many other African countries, has a colonial past.  I’m not going into detail here (I’m no politician), however it had an effect on the current adults, in terms of schooling and education.  Many learners have not completed their school years, either due to a lack of money or lack of support from Government and/or parents.  Keeping in mind that traditionally many African cultures have many children (this reflects status) and therefore don’t have the money to send children to school; rather keep them at home to help with cattle/sheep herding.  These children learned from nature, however many didn’t get the intellectual stimulation which is apprehend in Western cultures.  Another issue is the fact that families split up (parents working in the city) or HIV/Aids epidemic and children are reared by Grandparents, which may also affect intellectual and emotional stimulation.  The question here is, how much are parents involved in their children’s environment and development? Research shows that were parents are highly involved and talk to their children e.g. explaining features about nature/ social issues or reading bedtimes stories, they foster pretend play (Shmukler 1981: Singer & Singer, 2005).  Now, some of you may wonder where I’m going with pretend play? The benefit of early pretend play is important in a child’s development, and ultimately his talents and/or giftedness and life as a whole.  It enhances a child’s capacity for cognitive flexibility, creativity (Russ, 2004; Singer & Singer, 2005), reduces aggression, delays gratification and strengthens civility and empathy.  Furthermore, children learn social skills e.g. communication and problem solving (Berk, Mann & Ogan, 2006) (Hirsh-Parsek, Golinkoff, Berk & Singer, 2009).  These results may be taken further to all culture groups of Namibia….and most likely to the rest of the world, and does partly explain why there are so many troubles within our society/youth.  Therefore, I do encourage parents to stay involved with their children, be part of their development and should your child be gifted or talented, make use of the support structures.


Secondly, what does success mean? Most will answer, knowledge; which is true.  But how do we achieve success in the classroom, especially if you got talented and highly intelligent children in the mix?  Here the obvious answer lies in the willingness of the learners….meaning to learn something new every day (which is one of my own mottos as well!!)  Willingness to learn also includes the effort of the school/teachers, as well as the efforts of the parents.  Most of the times teachers (private schools) do an excellent job, however in some schools teacher really only do what is necessary and will not go that extra mile.  Just as an example, my primary teacher used to teach Gr. 4, 5 and 6 all in one classroom and teaching all the subjects, except for Afrikaans.  Yes we were not that many, but to keep 3 different Grades active and happy as well as stimulating is an achievement, which I don’t see in today’s schools.  I do encourage all teachers to really invest more time, energy and effort in our learners – this can only have excellent results for the country as a whole.  Skills for success include flexibility, adaptability, creativity (and lots of it!!) and imagination, patience and persistence and finally, motivation.  To implement these skills, teachers need to encourage working hard (and don’t go on strikes or be late for school etc.) and caring about the learners.  They should know the learner’s interest and abilities and match it with their readiness to learn something new every day.  Only this way young people will not get bored and disengage from school and talented children will perform to their ability.  In using tools like assessments (including psychometric assessments) and differentiation, one can build a comprehensive approach to each learner’s abilities and therefore identify talented and gifted children.  (For more information on differentiation, see blog Parenting for High Potential”, by Mariam, Feb. 15, 2012)

Whose job is it to provide necessary stimulation or schooling? Is it the Governments’, the school or society?   It is of utmost importance to give all Namibian learners (including talented and gifted children) a chance on excellent education.  Education is the only way to improve one’s life and to identify talent/giftedness (including education on the parent’s side).  Here, we as an international team can help the talented/gifted children to achieve and motivate each learner to finish his/her education.  Through on-going support to each child, parent(s) and the school, one can achieve great success.

Every learner becomes unique, when they do work/study things they love and enjoy, and therefore they will give their best.  Success!!

 Silvia van Biljon - March 2012