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The genius versus the average

Would you let your bright child skip a class?

At Kampala Parents School Bukoto, pupils are grouped according to their intelligence. The very bright ones have their own class separated from slow learners.


According to the school administration, having weaker students sharing a class with bright ones usually makes it harder for slow learners to improve and at the same time makes the sharp ones retard a bit.
Perhaps this explains the school’s outstanding performance in last year’s PLE where about 90% of the candidates passed in grade one, and 25 got the maximum aggregate 4 marks.

Indeed there are different categories of students in a school. For instance, among the slow learners are those that keep repeating class after class to the dismay of their parents and guardians. Even at university level, retakes have been the order of the day for some dull or lazy undergraduates.


Besides the bright students, the kind that make newspaper headlines when national examination results are released, there is another group that are very few in number and therefore hard to find. These are extremely brilliant students, or call them geniuses.

Some of them have had to pass over classes and maintain their high standard. Others in this category have achieved big academic honours and got top jobs at a very young age.

Just consider the likes of Arthur Kwesiga, who in 1989 while a pupil at Kampala Parents School, registered and wrote PLE while in P.6 and not in P.7 as required. He surprisingly emerged the best candidate in the whole country.

Kampala Parents School Principal, Daphine Kato, considers Kwesiga a real genius and one of the best students she has ever handled in her teaching career. “Such were students that would make teachers feel proud of their profession. They were very fast learners and highly gifted,” says Kato.

Just this year, another Kampala Parents old girl, Tina Muwanguzi, graduated from Kyambogo University with a first class degree in Bachelor of Engineering in Telecommunication Engineering. Like Kwesiga, Muwanguzi never got to

P. 7; she wrote her PLE while in P.6 and scored 4 aggregates. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree abroad. Interestingly, Tina’s father, Samson Muwanguzi, a Kampala lawyer and chairman board of governors of Kampala Parents School, is reported to have registered and wrote his O-level exams while in S.3, and passed with flying colours!  Like father like daughter!

The list of ‘geniuses’ that have gone through Kampala Parents School is endless. The just retired national swimming champion, Olivia Aya Nakitanda, too skipped P.7 and wrote PLE in 1998 while in P.6, and emerged the 24th best pupil in the country.

Nakitanda later joined Mt. St. Mary’s Namagunga where she scored nine aggregates in the best eight subjects at O-level. At A-level, she emerged the best science student in Mukono District. Nakitanda, who is now completing her Medicine course at Makerere University, is a rare ‘whole student’ to find.

She, for instance, started receiving swimming lessons at the tender age of four and became a superb piano player at seven and got a grade five international certificate.

There was also Daniel Mayanja, another extremely gifted boy who also skipped P.7 while at Kampala Parents. He is currently an expatriate engineer abroad and was recently in the country as one of the experts brought in by MTN to fix delicate and complicated telecommunication equipment.


But is it really a good idea to make a bright child skip a class? Silas Ejiku Eturu, the group one P.7 class teacher for the brightest pupils at Kampala Parents, thinks pupils should never be made to skip classes however sharp they may be.

“Making students sit for PLE before P.7 may later prove disastrous for them. Since part of the early secondary school level is a review of the P.7 syllabus, such kids will miss some vital information.

“They should go through the whole primary level syllabus so as not to miss certain information that lays the foundation for early secondary school education,” he reasons.

Ejiku is not at all surprised seeing some P.6 pupils sitting for PLE and passing with flying colours simply because, according to him, about three quarters of the PLE syllabus is covered at P.6 level. Daphine Kato, however, sees nothing wrong with making exceptionally gifted pupils skip some classes, so long as it’s not done for every Tom, Dick or Harry.

“This works well with exceptionally gifted children and should be done with the consent of parents. I have seen some of these students maintain excellent form up to the university level,“ she said.

Kitante Primary School deputy head teacher, Patrick Kahuma, says making bright students to skip classes is not all that bad, but should be done with caution.

“My son was very sharp and spent only one term in P.3 and got promoted to P.4. As a result, he must have missed the basic concepts of Mathematics, a subject that later in secondary school troubled him a lot. He is now a laboratory technician; and who knows, maybe if it was not for this he would now be a doctor,” he said.

Kahuma says one of Kitante’s best pupils in last year’s PLE, Emmanuel Ddembe with 4 aggregates, had in the previous year while in P.6 registered and written PLE, scoring a first grade of 12 aggregates but decided to return for P.7.

Some parents disapprove of the whole idea of accelerated promotion for bright students.
“If I myself didn’t skip any class during my days, how can my kid do it? Do you think the educationists were stupid to set up the required number of classes and years one has to go through before completing school?” asked Deogratias Kazibwe, a mechanic in Ndeeba, Kampala.  


Five years ago in Kenya, an eight-year-old gifted girl, Tracy Ouko, was accelerated from Class Three to Form One, skipping five classes. She was identified as a gifted and talented child with the psychometric test revealing that she was exceptionally good in Nutrition and her knowledge well above that of her age mates.

Her interest in the subject had prompted her parents to take her through the psychometric test.
Today the Form Four student of Millennium Academy is one of the 325 children in East Africa who are part of the African council for gifted and talented children, an organisation that nurtures and appreciates extraordinary ability.

During my stay in Chicago, USA, around 2003, the Chicago Tribune came up with a front-page story of a nine-year-old boy, Timothy Sho Yano, who had just entered Loyola University and graduated with summa cum laude at the age of 12. Summa cum laude is Latin for ‘with highest honour’, or literally, ‘with highest praise’.

Much of his research involved the effects of cell phone radiation on mice and he co-authored many papers regarding his biological findings.

After completing his bachelor’s degree, Yano immediately entered the medical scientist training programme at the prestigious University of Chicago where he simultaneously completed an MD and PhD in Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology in 2009, all at the age of 18.

The MD/PhD refers to an education which includes both the medical training of a doctor [MD] with the rigour of a scientific researcher (PhD). Yano’s IQ was tested at 200, well above average and what some would call genius level.

The Guinness Book of World Records record Michael Kearney as the youngest university graduate. In 2005 at the age of eight, Kearney completed an Associate of Science degree in Geology while at Santa Rose Junior College.

He would then go on to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from the University of South Alabama at age 10, a master’s in Biochemistry from Middle Tennessee State University at 14, and another master’s - this time in Computer Science from Vanderbilt at 17.  He capped it all with a PhD in Chemistry.

And there are those that regard some Ugandans, like the acting Makerere University Vice Chancellor, Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba, as a kind of genius.

This professor of Computer Science in 2005, at the age of 36, became the youngest faculty dean ever at Makerere when he was appointed to head the Faculty of Computing and IT. Baryamureeba has received several international awards.



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