Study Abroad and Multiple Intelligences of African Youth: The Athletic Talent

This paper argues that African youth, compared to students from other parts of the World, are relatively deprived of study abroad opportunities. The deteriorating African economies, ending of 'development assistance,' and increasing 'marginalization" of the African continent has made significant changes in the pattern and numbers of African students studying abroad. Conventional means that had enabled students to study in the West have dramatically changed. Most of the students studying in the United States are self-sponsored and have come to the United States on their own (Elhassan, 2000).

Based on Gardener's (1983) and Armstrong's (1994) thoughts on multiple intelligences theory, the paper argues that African youth are multiple talented. According to Gardener (1983), the evidences from studying gifted children, brain-damaged patients, savants, normal people, etc. are very clear to prove an existence of multiple intelligences rather than one. Each of the cognitive faculties is intelligence-specific; that is, people can demonstrate levels of proficiency across the seven intelligences in each cognitive area.

The paper argues that this concept of multiple intelligences is very critical to the future of education and training of African youth. Unfortunately, the current school practice in Africa is still based on the traditional narrow definition of intelligence. Only those students who look smart in mathematics, science, or social science are considered intelligent but not those who are, for example, good in music or athletic activities. It could be argued that if education in Africa pays attention to all these competencies, good results could be achieved with regard to social and private return. It is high time for the "multiple intelligences" theory to be discussed seriously, as it should have a great impact on the learning process and education development in Africa .

The athletic talent of Africans is quite obvious. This can clearly be seen in the dominance of African Americans, African Europeans, African Latinos, and Africans in sports around the world. The paper gives additional evidence in this regard. The main argument of the paper is the assumption that athletic talent of African youth could be helpful for them to acquire study abroad opportunities in the United States and to develop their other talents for studying other disciplines. This could be quite useful for them, for their families, and for the whole country. It could be another avenue for small scale development in Africa . The case studies of the NBA Congolese player Dikembe Mutombo and some other NBA African players were taken as examples to illustrate multiple intelligences of African youth and its implications for study abroad and development in Africa . The paper is part of a developing project that designed to help the most talented African athletic students to come to the United States to study. It needs to answer certain questions related to African athletic talent and its potentials for exploring new avenues for study abroad and small scale developments in Africa.

Khalid El-hassan

Khalid El-hassan is the program Coordinator for the African Studies Resource Center at University of Kansas.
Khalid research interest is mainly in international education and education development in Africa.