Gifted Education in Africa – Part 2

In Part One we examined a somewhat questionable initiative to support pan-African gifted education.

In Part Two we will review two more positive programmes, each of them driven from the UK.

IGGY in Africa

In 2007 the University of Warwick completed its 5-year contract with the English Government to run the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth.

The 2007 World Conference took place at Warwick University, which used it to announce the formation of IGGY – The International Gateway for Gifted Youth.

IGGY is essentially an international network for G&T 7-19 year-olds which combines a variety of online activities with international summer schools.

Membership is currently free, but summer schools cost £1,000 per student plus travel costs. A limited number of means-tested bursaries is offered .

IGGY is linked with the host University’s ‘Warwick in Africa‘ project, which is currently focused mainly on South Africa (through its relationship with the University of Witwatersrand) and Tanzania, though with plans to expand into Mozambique.

During 2009, IGGY enrolled 43 gifted South African pupils from partner township schools and three of these attended the IGGY summer school in Warwick in the summer of that year.

In August 2010 IGGY is running a summer school in Warwick and another in Botswana, the latter in partnership with the Botswana Ministry of Education and Botswana Accountancy College (which is providing the venue).

Since the full tuition cost is £1,000 and the air fare is around £900 return from London, it would be interesting to know more about the nationality and background of those attending.

Botswana press reports suggest there will be up to 90 participants, 50% of them from Botswana. My guess is that others are likely to be drawn from international and private schools in neighbouring countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia. We know that 10 South African township pupils will receive scholarships to attend.

Current plans for IGGY include strengthening membership in the South African townships, creating an ‘IGGY hub’ at Wits, and providing six IGGY scholarships for South African learners and two for Tanzanian learners (costing £2,500 per scholarship).

Warwick is coy about the size of IGGY’s membership – which suggests overall numbers are relatively small. Furthermore, I can find no published evaluation.

That said, this initiative is clearly delivering a significant and tangible benefit to African G&T youngsters, including a few from notably disadvantaged backgrounds.

Of course, this activity isn’t entirely philanthropic. Like many others, Warwick has a mission to establish itself as a global university, so strengthening its capacity to generate income, recruit the best staff and attract international students against strong competition.

But there are significant benefits in both directions, which generates strong interest in Africa as well as in more developed countries, as this Association of Commonwealth Universities website demonstrates.

The African Gifted Foundation

The African Gifted Foundation was established by Tom Ilube, Chief Executive Officer at Garlik, an online identity protection company.

He is of Nigerian origin, having been educated mainly at Edo College and the University of Benin, both in Benin City, capital of Edo State in Southern Nigeria. But he also spent time at school in Kampala, Uganda and at a state school in Teddington, England.

Ilube subsequently worked for several companies including the London Stock Exchange (1986-87), Price Waterhouse Coopers (1990-94) and Goldman Sachs (1994-96). In 1996 he founded a software company, Lost Wax (1996-2003), before moving to Egg (2003-05), after which he co-founded Garlik.

He is a Trustee and Governor of three academies in England, including Hammersmith Academy, due to open in 2011…And he has his own blog which throws a personal light on his activities.

Who else is involved?

The Foundation is a UK registered charity whose Patron is Dr Mamphela Ramphele from South Africa, a former Managing Director of the World Bank and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town.

Trustees include:

  • Frank Russell, Director of the Centre for African Development Research and Education (CADRE), which is engaged in capacity building, education and research projects;
  • Andrew Alli, the Nigerian President and CEO of the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), an investment bank and development finance institution based in Lagos.
  • Paul Mugambi, President of the Uganda National Academy of Science and Vice Chancellor of Nkumba University, Entebbe, Uganda.

The Foundation is advised by Deborah Eyre, former director of the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth (NAGTY) but no other relationship is acknowledged with Warwick University.

A range of partners is listed, with a declared emphasis on maths and computing, including:

  • Cass Business School, London, UK (where Ilube studied for a MBA)
  • the Department of Mathematics, University of Makerere, Uganda (Uganda’s largest and oldest university)
  • Mara Foundation – the non-profit foundation of the Mara Group, supporting education in sub-Saharan Africa


The Foundation’s mission is to identify and develop the potential of the estimated 20 million learners within the top 5% by ability across Africa. Its aims are to:

  • deliver high quality gifted educational opportunities to 1,000 gifted young people each year, in cooperation with leading African universities;
  • identify and establish a membership network across Africa of 10,000 gifted young people by 2015;
  • direct the continent’s and the world’s premier universities towards Africa’s top 5% gifted population and specifically to the members of the African Gifted Foundation; and
  • become a focus for African expertise and research in gifted education, and a catalyst for the widespread provision of gifted education across Africa.

Delivery model

Members will be selected on the basis of school recommendations, tests in maths and reasoning skills and a self-written personal statement. Boys and girls will be equally represented and the target age of students will be 14-18.

The Foundation says it will:

‘ensure that personal background and financial resources will not be a barrier to membership or attending the Academy sessions’

but does not go into further details.

The website claims an integrated model that blends effective education in the students’ own schools with online activities and residential study schools.

Unfortunately there is no information about how the first part of this equation will be secured . If only one side of the bridge is constructed, integration will fail and students will simply enjoy a ‘bolt-on’ experience. (NAGTY itself was not entirely successful in this respect.)

The residential experiences will last two weeks, be university-based, and combine inputs from academics and experts from industry, some of them from the UK.

The first will be in January 2011 at Makerere University in Uganda. There will be 30 participants drawn from Uganda, Nigeria and Botswana (which suggests an undeclared link with IGGY, or else they will be in direct competition).

Moderated online debates will build on the content of the residential events. Both will focus predominantly on maths and computing.

A second residential event – this time for 200 participants from 6 countries – is scheduled for January 2012, rapidly followed by four more of the same size, so achieving the target of 1,000 participants by the end of that year.

This level of provision will then be sustained, with events hosted by leading universities throughout Africa. The timetable for expansion is therefore highly ambitious.

Graduates of the programme will remain engaged as alumni, on a lifelong membership basis – and will presumably provide a valuable income stream.

Will the Foundation succeed?

This venture certainly seems more likely to be realised than the African Council initiative backed by the World Council.

Its success will depend on whether it overcomes three key challenges:

  • Can it reach into all parts of Africa, including the poorest countries – there is a big risk that its reach will be confined to those which are relatively stable and wealthy;
  • Can it successfully influence the quality of learning in the students’ own schools, or will it remain largely a ‘bolt-on’ experience with a significantly diminished impact; and
  • Can it ensure that disadvantaged students are proportionately represented, or will it inevitably become an educational prop for Africa’s middle classes which merely offers some token scholarships for poorer learners?

These obstacles may prove insurmountable – but hats off to Ilube and his Foundation for trying!

I wish them every success.


July 2010


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