Gifted and Talented Education in Africa: Part 1

Our steering committee for the 2007 World Council Conference in England was committed to making it a genuinely global event, inviting speakers from every continent. (Would that the World Council made this a requirement for all their conferences!)

We enjoyed a keynote speech from Professor Loyiso Nongxa, Vice Chancellor of Witwatersrand University, which served to highlight the desperate poverty of disadvantaged gifted learners in South Africa.

My only direct experience in Africa was a week-long consultancy to the Government of Mauritius which, at the time, was keen to develop into a Knowledge Based Economy a la Hong Kong and Singapore.

Although Mauritius has its fair share of poverty, the South African situation is clearly dire in comparison. But then South Africa is itself a wealthy country by African standards….Poverty is always relative, even in Africa.

After Nongxa’s keynote, several of us discussed the idea of establishing an international charitable foundation, to support disadvantaged gifted learners in developing countries and to lobby for international aid from developed countries to include some help for those learners.

That may have come to nothing but, three years on, support for African gifted education has increased significantly.

In Part Two I want to explore some promising developments, but let us begin with a salutary tale.

The African Council for Gifted and Talented

The November 2009 World Council Newsletter contains a report from a Professor Humphrey Oborah of Kenya who attended the Vancouver Conference.

The report concerns the establishment of an African Council for Gifted and Talented, making clear that the International Office of the University of Winnipeg (where the World Council is based) has a stake in this development.

No doubt that is because significant advantages might accrue to the University from such a relationship, not least a regular flow of bright (and sometimes wealthy) African students. Winnipeg would not be atypical in establishing a footing in sub-Sarahan Africa, as we shall see in Part Two.

The report informs us that Professor Oborah has been elected President of the African Council. An interim Secretariat has been appointed including named individuals from DR Congo, Egypt, Mozambique, Senegal and Zambia.

The piece includes an impressive illustration of the future Headquarters Building to be built at the ‘Digital Advisory Learning Centre (DALC) Open University’ in Nairobi.

The article concludes:

‘The WCGTC affirms its commitment to support the growth and development of the African Council for Gifted and Talented (ACfGT, The Millennium Learning Targets), as an affiliate member of the WCGTC, into a loud voice for gifted and talented children in Africa.

To begin with, faculty members of the University of Winnipeg, who are also members of the WCGTC, are making plans to visit Nairobi, Kenya to make presentations at the first mini-conference in Africa, which will take place on March 26, 2010, in Nairobi.’

The Council website is impressive, but has not been updated since March 2010. It sets out an ambitious governance structure for the Council, to match the grandeur of the building, but is it a castle in the air?

The Council is said to have charitable status. The Nairobi-based Executive Secretariat will comprise a Council President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Deputy Treasurer, Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary. They will be supported by an Executive Administrator and staff.

Each member country is to have a national secretariat on the same model.

The Executive Council was to have met on 20 December 2009, but there is no record of its deliberations on the publicly accessible parts of the website.

Objectives are to:

  • advocate for Africa’s gifted and talented in consultation with the World Council
  • provide identification and management services
  • conduct testing and provide support through physical and electronic teaching methods
  • develop and implement guidelines for testing ability and potential
  • develop and promote G&T curricula and resources in various disciplines
  • collaborate with other institutions of learning and research within and outside Africa.

More about DALC and its satellites

The Council’s parent organisation is DALC (Digital Advisory and Learning Centre). DALC has its own website

Although DALC boasts much of the paraphernalia of a university – faculties, campuses, admissions and examinations – one part of the site concedes ‘DALC is looking forward to being a university soon’, which rather contradicts the ‘Open University’ tag in the earlier World Council newsletter.

A list of services are offered that underpin the Council’s objectives, but these are provided through another body with its own website – the Centre for Academic Referrals Testing and Management – CARETM

And DALC has another partner – the Africa Centre for Anthropometric Research, Education, Testing and Management (risking confusion between CARETM and ACARETM) and – yes you’ve guessed it – it too has a website!

ACARETM offers ‘3-D body scanning’ which has ‘unlimited possibilities including…brain intelligence and knowledge diametrics’.

DALC tells us that the Director of ACARETM, Dr Rose Otieno, runs international research seminars, but the details provided do not support this description.

The relationship with the World Council

The projected mini-conference with the World Council clearly took place. The Council’s website includes the prospectus, but no report on the event itself.

However, this newspaper article suggests that a Memorandum of Understanding between the African Council and the World Council was agreed at the event. It would be very interesting to know what that Memorandum commits each party to achieving!

It would be equally interesting to learn what preliminary research the University of Winnipeg and the World Council undertook into DALC and its satellites. Certainly one cannot get far through a Google search without encountering repeated allegations that the whole edifice is a scam.

These may or may not be reliable – some are certainly scurrilous – but there is more substantive evidence to suggest that, in its past, DALC has improperly claimed a relationship with Oxford and Cambridge Universities: a matter which came to a head in 2008 as this newspaper report testifies.

To be fair, DALC is now at some pains to point out the true state of affairs.

Professor Oborah’s career history and academic credentials are set out here. This website is linked to the organisation that awarded him his doctorate and professorship and of which he is a Vice-President.

I make no comment. Read the piece and draw your own conclusions.

Interestingly, a month before the mini-Conference, Professor Oborah announced that he was to step down as DALC’s ‘Head of Missions/Executive Director’. It is unclear whether he continues as President of the African Council.

Some questions

There are too many to list but, how about these as a ‘starter for ten’:

  • Did Winnipeg University and the World Council undertake due diligence before entering such a relationship?
  • Have they secured proper safeguards and commitments to ensure that the World Council’s reputation is not damaged?
  • What progress has been made towards the establishment of the African Council and the building of its new offices?

You may have access to some of the answers. I hope so…

GP

July 2010

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