Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

The Relationship between the "Smart Fraction", SES, and Education: The Sudan Case

Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

The Relationship between the "Smart Fraction", SES, and Education: The Sudan Case

Article excerpt

Scholars in Sudan have struggled for years to draw attention to the importance of educating the gifted. Omar Khaleefa, for example, wrote numerous articles and books (Khaleefa, 2006, 2012, 2013; Khaleefa et al., 2007, 2008a,b) in a sustained effort to identify gifted Sudanese and draw the attention of government institutions, businesspeople and NGOs to the importance of educating the gifted. In a series of three articles (Khaleefa, 2012, 2013), Khaleefa presented a concise description of his efforts to draw attention to the danger of neglecting education reforms in general and gifted education in particular. He criticized the government education policy of enrolling low ability high school graduates to specialize in education. Khaleefa (2013) claimed that the average IQ of graduating teachers is less than that of the gifted students they teach, and that this puts the developing cognitive abilities of such students at risk. Khaleefa et al. (2007) estimated the percentage of participants in the Simbir project whose IQ was above 130 points was .36%, and with a population of forty million that would indicate perhaps 14,400 highly intelligent students in the country as a whole. Criticizing the misallocation of funds to achieve military and political objectives, Khaleefa pointed to the danger of wasting the potential of these students. These articles capture the frustration scholars in Sudan are facing in relation to the matter of educating the gifted, in which only little progress has been achieved by initiatives such as the Simbir project (see next paragraph for description) (Khaleefa et al., 2007) and which has been exacerbated by the exodus of gifted education scholars from Sudan universities to Gulf States universities. Science, technology and innovation indicators for Sudan reported that between 2002 and 2014, Sudan lost more than 3,000 researchers to emigration (Jalal, 2014; UNESCO, 2015).

Attallah (2005, 2009) joined the effort that Khaleefa had started. He described the development of gifted education in Sudan as a "revolution of gifted children that started at the end of 2002" (Attallah, 2005, p. 1), initiated by Khaleefa, who identified the first group of gifted students at Al Qabas Schools, and bore fruit in 2005 with the inauguration of the Simbir project. This project had five major objectives. The first was to identify, quantify, and nurture giftedness among gifted students selected from the general education system. The second was to classify gifted children according to interests and area of giftedness; the third to select, train, and qualify teachers for gifted education; the fourth to provide proper support for the gifted and their families; and the fifth to solicit the financial, technical, and labor support needed to initiate and continue the project. The project administrators claim major achievements in the number of students tested, identified, and classified; between 2003 and 2006, from a pool of eighty thousand nominees, 6,120 children were tested and 382 (5%) were identified as gifted (Khaleefa, 2008). However, although the project still exists, it has lost momentum for lack of funding.

The frustration Sudanese scholars have encountered in their attempt to improve gifted education in the country is neither new nor unique to Sudan. Batterjee (2013) claimed that the origins of gifted programs could be traced to Plato's writings (427-347 BCE) and the works of the Muslim educational scholar Al Ghazali (1058-1111). Plato envisioned a strong aristocratic state in which the concept of virtue required strict discipline among its citizens and the primary goal of education was a student's spiritual and intellectual development, ultimately leading to a vision of truth (Finlay, 2011; Gutek, 2009). His writings described grand plans for education that abandoned traditional, time-honored practices; for instance, he argued that the responsibility for education did not lie with families but rather with carefully selected paragons of wisdom, and he advocated for radical measures to capture and cultivate the imagination of students (Lines, 2009). …

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