23 January 2013

Uganda: Student Wins School's Genius Trophy Thrice

His teacher says he has a quick grasp of concepts, his aunt says he has an adult way of thinking and his mother acknowledges that she has an exceptionally gifted son. Rebecca Nalunga writes about Daniel Munyaruguru

Hello, how are you? Very nice to meet you," he smiles, extending his hand. Such a decent young man, I think as I sit myself next to him. He sits up expectantly, his small eyes darting back and forth as he takes it all in.

"My name is Rebecca," I reply.

"Oh, are you the Rebecca of Toto Magazine?" He asks, with innocence. I cannot help but smile, yet nine-year-old Daniel Munyaruguru is not your average child.

Never mind the continuous hum of the traffic in the background; he has a focused look on his face, which is constantly softened by his frequent smiles.

Listening intently to each question, he answers spontaneously, sometimes taking a moment to think through his responses, much like any adult.

"So Daniel," I ask, "what games do you like to play?"He loves badminton, swimming and video games. His role models, unlike other children his age, are international preacher Benny Hinn and worship leader Don Moen because they always speak the truth.

When he grows up, he wants to be a pastor. "I want to preach the Gospel and share the joy with the world," he says. His choice of movies leans towards Christianity, Joyful Noise being one of them.

About his parents, he is amazed by his mother's kindheartedness. "What does that mean?" I probe.

"Basically, that person likes to share with others. Mummy shares with me and dad. She looks after under-privileged children by providing money and food for them and she is full of the gifts of the Holy Spirit," he explains.

His favourite TV programme is The Entrepreneur, which airs on a local TV station. So fascinated by business is he that he asked his mother whether she was ever planning to become the CEO of the company where she works.

"Of course, a CEO is the top boss and it stands for Chief Executive Officer," he says.

Munyaruguru's worst position since he began school has been the fourth overall and he has won the school genius trophy thrice.

His seeming high IQ has not come without a price.

"At school some children used to curse me," he says. His favourite subject is mathematics, though sometimes it can be challenging.

Teacher says:

Jennifer Nazziwa, Munyaruguru's math teacher at Kampala Junior Academy, says he quickly grasps concepts and it takes the shortest explanation for him to understand.

"Once he understands a concept, he never forgets it or how it is applied," she says. He does his work well and scores over 90% in all subjects all year through. She, however, notes that he sometimes panics during exams, which is expected of children his age.

Munyaruguru's friends at school, are his age mates and he is playful. His father says outside school, he socialises with children way older than him. He has two close friends in S2 with whom he plays soccer and video games.

Doctor's view

Dr. Keith Mugarura, the health team leader at Compassion International Uganda, says being a genius can be hereditary. There are no particular studies that indicate a particular cause of this skyrocketing IQ.

He further explains, however, that the brain of a genius may have some parts slightly bigger or more active than normal and the wiring is fairly different. This, however, does not make them susceptible to mental illness, as is commonly perceived.

"The major difference is their heightened capacity to see things differently. Their problem-solving and thought process is quite different from the ordinary person's and it will always be that way throughout their life," he says.

Mugarura adds that, often, geniuses are locked in a world of their own and do not do things by the norm. If they try to solve a problem and the system fails them, geniuses find their own unusual way to solve it. Other than that they have normal emotions, sleep patterns, responses and friends.

There are no particular foods recommended to an expecting mother so she can have a genius baby.

Mugarura says for proper brain formation, an expecting mother needs to take folic acid and vitamin B, especially in the first trimester to aid brain formation and should maintain a healthy balanced diet.

Mother's testimony

Salome Ekirapa Tumusange says her pregnancy with Munyaruguru passed without much drama. She weaned him at three months and switched to soya mixed with mukene. She says his health as a baby was good; he suffered no serious illness save for once when he drank paraffin.

She, however, noticed that he teethed and crawled much earlier and his speech developed much faster than his peers.

"When he was four years old, he surprised us by giving a coherent speech at his cousin's birthday party, thanking all the guests for coming."

Another trait that surprises his parents is his memory. "If he goes to a place once, he never forgets the way there, ever since he was three years. We used to ask him to stay awake whenever we were going to a new place so he would help direct us next time in case we forgot," she says.

Having an overly brilliant child can be challenging, so Deo Tumusange, his father, sets boundaries for his son on the topics he is permitted to comment on.

His father does not allow him to comment on topics like sex or engage in deep political arguments and other adult talk. He restricts him from joining in his aunties and uncles conversations.

As father, he is challenged by his playfulness and even though he mainly uses dialogue, he occasionaly canes him when he misbehaves, though he does it cautiously not to cause bodily harm. "His father is firm in his style of discipline," Salome says.

Both parents put a lot of effort guiding and inspiring Munyaruguru, indeed, the entire family, chips in.

His aunties and uncles reward his good performance with games and money.

They are also teaching him important life skills like how to handle money. "He owns a bank account. He tithes, rewards himself and saves the rest. At one point, from all the monetary gifts, he had a total of sh2m on his account," Salome says.

Aunt Esther says:

"Daniel is an amazing child. He dares us to bet cash for him to score 90% and above during the term and he actually gets just that. This shows that even if he is naturally gifted with a high intellect, he works hard at his work," she says.

He has a grown up sense of humour and loves to converse with adults and many times his comments on any topic are on spot.

Uncle Isaac Obiro:

Obiro says Daniel is a genius. He can articulate issues with clarity and reason maturely. When his mother was intercepted by Traffic Police for driving on the wrong side of the road, Munyaruguru reasoned with the traffic officer about the sense in taking the turn and how it would lead them to their destination easier, much to the officer's irritation.

"Because he is bigbodied, it is easy to forget that he is young and many times he has been pressured to mature faster than his age and to make mature decisions.

Who is a genuis?

A genius is someone who possesses exceptional intelligence and creativity. Many may be smart and intelligent but are not quite geniuses because they lack creative abilities or opportunities.

The exact definition of genius is difficult to pin because no clear subjective measures can be used to determine a genius.

Signs of a genius

Exploring dead ends: Geniuses try to create something new and even after many failed attempts will not give up. They backtrack, seeking to discover where the error was till they find a solution to it.

They produce strikingly realistic drawings as children because they see things literally.

They have an eye for detail and a very good memory.

Lewis German, an American psychologist, is the inventor of the famous Stanford Binet IQ which grades normal to average IQ at 90-109 and superior to genius or near genius IQ at 120-140

What to do with your genius child

Encourage them to have a balanced life with co-curricular activities so that they do not focus only on the area of their genius.

Appreciate that sometimes they may focus a lot on particular areas or subjects and let them have that time.

Work closely with the teachers at school to help keep them challenged because the school curriculum may not be designed to provide for their mental needs.

Let them enjoy their uniqueness. Guide them, set boundaries, but do not punish them or shut them up when they speak.

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