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Feature Article of Thursday, 24 January 2013

Columnist: Agyemang, Katakyie Kwame Opoku

Unearthing and Nurturing Children's Talents in Schools

- Katakyie's Perspective

A lot of people, if not everyone has a talent but not everyone knows what they are talented in. Many will therefore live their lives not knowing their talents due to lack of opportunities to develop them. This ignorance, could probably account for the slow pace of Ghana's socio-economic development. At least the concept of individual differences teaches us that no two individuals or persons are equal. People differ in many aspects - height, beauty, intelligence, attitude, character, among other traits. Even twins born on the same day differ in one way or the other. It is against this backdrop that people usually assume that every individual is the controller of his/her own destiny.

God in His own wisdom, as John Mahama prefers to say, bequeathed to each individual a unique talent to make him live a prosperous life. Some of these talents are manifested in many fields of endeavour - music, education, politics, health, agriculture, chieftaincy, sports, entertainment etc. However, these God-given talents are not like mere seeds that could grow in the forest on their own. The talents within individuals could be unearthed and developed, only when children are given equal opportunities in life. During my Teaching Practice in the mid 1990's, I had the opportunity to ask my pupils what each of them wanted to do and become in future. It was indeed amazing to see the passion in the children as they provided answers to my question. And I know all those reading this piece are privy to some of those answers. But what measures are being put in place by the government to ensure that our children's talents are discovered and nurtured so that they can fully maximise their capabilities?

In their quest to give intellectual property to their children to meet the challenges of life, parents have played a meaningful role in educational matters in this country. Successive governments, together with other stakeholders of education have also helped in this direction. But the objective of maximising every child's talent in Ghana is still a mirage. Ghana's education system, in spite of the fundamental changes and reforms that have taken place, has failed to yield the desired results. The curriculum, for instance, has failed to capture the abilities of children as more emphasis has been given to external examinations and literacy works. The upsurge of social vices, high unemployment rate, and poverty among the citizenry go to underscore the fact that millions of talents have gone waste. How could a fail in Mathematics or English Language in WASSCE or GCE, for instance, determine a student's destiny? But this is the plight of most senior high school graduates in this beloved country of ours.

Regrettably, the socio-economic damage being caused by this technical anomaly has not caught the attention of our political leaders. The political rush to revert the SHS duration from 4 years to 3 years by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration has compounded the problem. The argument of inadequate educational infrastructure and extra cost to parents was untenable, to say the least. This is because the resources needed to provide such infrastructure are still in abundance. The high percentage pass rate of the 1st and 2nd batches of the 4- year SHS graduates justified the need for the system to remain in place.

For children to develop their talents for the benefit of our country; and also for the purpose of education to be achieved in our circumstance, time factor is of essence in the formulation of any educational policy. As stated earlier, children are endowed with mixed abilities and as a result need more time to absorb certain educational instructions. Education should never be seen as an event, but rather a process that must be decoupled from mere schooling or literacy and numeracy.

In fact, for education to achieve its purpose of equipping people with skills and moulding their character, it is imperative to allow all junior high school graduates to access secondary education without any condition. This is because the basic education level lacks the capacity to make our children reach their full potential. In addition, our educational curriculum, especially at the basic and secondary levels, is still dependent on protecting the interest of students with high Intelligent Quotients (IQ) at the expense of children with other similar abilities. As a nation, we have failed to recognise that every Ghanaian child, irrespective of his parents' social standing, is a potential president, surgeon, teacher, engineer, singer, dancer, and lawyer.

The neglect of children's abilities by many policy makers might have probably informed Dr. Howard Gardner, an American Psychologist to come out with his "Theory of Multiple Intelligences" in 1983. To Gardner, every child has at least one of his 8 intelligences. He argues that, the child who puts football or athletics at the expense of his books possesses bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence. Therefore he believes that such a child could be Ghana's Abedi Pele, Abu Duah, or Emmanuel Tuffuor in the near future. These were sports personalities who entertained Ghanaians with their footballing and athletic skills. Similarly, the child who sings a lot in the classroom or home might be seen to be disturbing the public ear, but genuinely such a child may be displaying his musical-rhythmic intelligence. He could become the next Amakye Dede or Daddy Lumba of Ghana. Also, the child who speaks a lot to the extent of poking his nose into the affairs of adults might be seen as a trouble child with that attitude, but little do we know that he might be exhibiting his linguistic intelligence. Such a child could grow up to be a either a lawyer, interpreter, radio presenter, news reader, or linguist. He is the next Dr. Mensah Otabil or Malik Kweku Baako.

In our educational pursuit in the past, we could all bear witnesses to children who were academically brilliant. Give them any mathematical or scientific problem/question and they would readily provide the right answers. To Gardner, such children are endowed with logical-mathematical intelligence, and could be surgeons, scientists, and doctors. They could step in the shoes of Prof. Kwabena Frimpong Boateng of the Cardio-thoracic centre fame. In addition, there are other kids who show interest in pets, or farming activities. Such children possess naturalistic intelligence and they are potential poultry farmers. They are the future managers of many poultry farms in Ghana. Furthermore, there are millions of children who may not be good academically, but if you give such children crayons and pencils to draw any object, you would be astonished. They are endowed with visual/spatial intelligence. They are potential designers and artists. What is more refreshing about Gardner's Theory is that a child may possess a combination of two or more of the 8 Multiple Intelligences. For example, a particular child may be a good singer, dancer, and footballer at the same time such as Asamoah Gyan, the Captain of the senior national team, the Black Stars.

From the above, it is clearly evident that, as far as human contribution to making the World a better place to live is concerned, no child is absolutely useless and none of them should be seen as such. It is thus the responsibility of every parent to team up with teachers to nurture these raw talents of children to shape the country's future.

In winding down, I call upon the Curriculum Research and Development Division (CRDD) of Ghana to come out with educational curriculum that could be relevant to the needs of the country. In this way, we would be able to produce graduates who could solve the basic environmental, social, and economic problems bedevilling mother Ghana. We cannot leave any child behind in this technological world on the basis of the person's inability to cope with academic work. For it is morally, religiously, legally, and technically wrong to allow my daughter, though a good singer, to terminate her education at the basic level just because she cannot speak and write good English or solve Mathematical problems. It is high time priority attention was given to Technical and Vocational education to give equal educational opportunities to the future leaders.

God bless Ghana! God bless Ghanaian Children!! God bless Kufuor!!!

Katakyie Kwame Opoku Agyemang, Enfield, London. (Free SHS Ambassador) Official blog: (www.katakyie.com) katakyienpp@yahoo.co.uk 07577626433 A native of Asante Bekwai-Asakyiri

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