Venezuelan Gifted Children Navigate a Decaying Educational System

Photo: Descifrado

“It breaks my heart that he’s not exploiting his potential,” Gloria says about her son. “He has so much to give and I feel like I’m hurting him instead.”

If you take a quick look at Samuel, her seven-year-old son, you don’t see anything particularly interesting: He’s just another kid playing with his cellphone. But as soon as he talks, you notice his rich language and his wide-ranging awareness.

His IQ is 131 in the classification of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale. For context, the normal range goes from 90 to 110.

“He understands things that I don’t, he asks questions I can’t answer. He likes to investigate, to search, he’s interested in the universe, dinosaurs, mythology. He doesn’t like to play soccer or watch cartoons. The first time I took him to therapy, he was three years old; once he started interacting with children his age we knew something was odd.”

Although having a child with such an extreme potential would be a blessing to many parents, Gloria feels it’s a curse while living in Venezuela, where the educational system is in crisis. No school here has the necessary tools to deal with distinct cases like this.

No school here has the necessary tools to deal with distinct cases like this.

“Most of the kids get frustrated and end up drowned in a system that bores them and makes them think they’re the problem,” says Adriana Hernández, gifted children therapist. “I’ve talked to parents and visited schools, but it’s not easy and the system is unprepared. Years ago, there was one school dedicated to gifted kids, but today it’s closed.”

For Gloria, it’s not easy either: “I get calls from school saying he’s not interested in classes, he doesn’t talk to other kids, he corrects teachers during lessons. I try to explain everything, I show them folders full of tests and psychologists’ reports, but they just don’t get it. It’s heartbreaking.”  

According to Hernández, it’s not only about education. Any kid in this situation needs special support on a psychological level: “They need to understand that they have tools that people like us don’t have. They must learn how to use these tools the right way, to not feel superior and to interact with kids their age. For them, it’s tough.”

For Venezuela’s Education Ministry, gifted children are “Outstanding Social Subjects” that can be properly accommodated in Bolivarian schools, but beyond words there isn’t an actual program.

“It’s not about time, it’s about what we lose,” Hernández says when I ask her about the time we’ll need, as a nation, to build a proper system for gifted children. “The leaders of the future, the ones who will cure diseases or solve major problems are left to decay by ineptitude and ignorance.”

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  1. The best thing for a gifted child in Venezuela–his parents “gift” him to a relative outside the Country (one who really can/cares). Those staying in the Country will fit in with typical Chavistas, interested in the universe (“El Galactico”), dinosaurs (recycled PSUV Ministers), and mythology (anything spewed out on Govt./non-Govt. media….

  2. I was that kid.

    The only thing I can advise his mother is to find the kid an adult mentor. Someone who was just as smart who the kid can talk to. Someone who will tell the kid he isn’t “weird”. Someone who will assure him that it does get easier. You have no idea how much that helps.

    However, as NET said, getting him out of Venezuela should be considered.

  3. Here’s a question: what kid is more worthy of extra support- a gifted kid, or a kid with learning challenges? And as we know, sometimes, those are the same kid.

    I think the answer is that neither kid is more worthy, and neither of those more worthy than the “average” kid. A functioning system of public education should serve all of these kids according to their needs and abilities.

    The collapse of the Venezuelan public educational system is a tragedy with unimaginable costs in lost potential for all kids, except maybe the extremely lucky.

  4. @Canucklehead….Hell must have frozen solid today and I guess I didn’t hear about it because I agree with every single sentence in your post! Lol. Nice post! Not an incendiary word in the whole thing! Well said!

    • Tom in Oklahoma, my folks brought me up to believe that the worth of what we say does not depend on the approbation of others, that all courage is a form of constancy, and that when there is something that strikes our admiration, better to say it straight and not in a backhanded way lest the point be lost in the manner of saying it. That’s how I was brought up.

      • Courage?

        You gotta be kidding.

        Stop embarrassing your parents by saying things like that. Like posting here makes you courageous.

        • When my folks taught me these rules for life Ira, there was no internet, and men were out doing more productive things, found no respite in chatter and innuendo, and would be ashamed to be discovered to have attributed words and falsehoods to people which had not been said.

          • Judging by what you post here, I laugh at your claims.

            You’re hysterical, trying to place yourself on a higher moral plane than others.

            Seriously…are you fucking kidding?

          • Ira, I like to think that any Kid whose abundant curiosity more than compensated for his average intellect, and who had available to him the vast resources of learning of a country such as America (including free public libraries), would have read what I wrote and not laughed at my claims and belittled the author of them, but asked: from which of those books written by that great storyteller who still dwells amongst us, did you pull that phrase about courage?

            The internet has made men soft minded, impotent and angry, jibbering followers of malignant and idle cults, and blind to the great wonders that educate and provide wisdom and solace, and which lie in books.

            It is an unrepentant decadence that mocks the situation of a child sitting in a devastated classroom in a country like Venezuela.

        • “soft minded, impotent and angry, jibbering followers of malignant and idle cults, ”

          yeah, you just described the left . idiots studying marxism rather than using their tools for better themselves.

  5. @ Canucklehead…well let me just say it straight out. I normally disagree with your posts but actually enjoyed your post above. I thought it was a good post!

  6. No offense, but knowing how fucked up VZ is in competent record-keeping…and the corruption involved in everything Chavismo touches..

    How the hell can you be sure this kid really has that high IQ?

    Sorry to be cynical, but it is NOT a trait of high IQ individuals to have social problems.

    It’s more a trait of Autism.

  7. the venezuelan success story is cleaning pocetas. Universities are hubs of marxism and mediocrity and there are no good courses and programs. Your best bet is home schooling and pirating a shit ton of books and online courses in english,

    Otherwise, be prepared to raise a trap listening marginal who drinks anis with preveral like 99% of all private schools graduates and 100% of all public schools graduates


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