Civil society and governments take first steps to nurture their talents.
By Menekse Tokay and Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Istanbul and Pristina -- 15/01/2013
A proposal would allow gifted children to enroll in university courses. [Hulya Cesur]
Gifted children are considered an asset for the region, but in Turkey and Kosovo, institutional support for their development has emerged only recently.
The state-owned Turkish Radio Television launched in October a weekly programme about gifted children's success stories to raise awareness of them and their families.
Meanwhile, the Turkish parliament's research commission on gifted children recently proposed legal changes allowing extraordinary students to take university courses earlier than usual.
Halide Incekara, who headed the commission, told SETimes supporting talented youngsters is a priority for the assembly.
"Our commission underlined the need for launching new and effective certificate programmes for educators so they can work with those children more efficiently," she said.
There are 66 special education centers owned by the state, along with a growing number of private sector initiatives targeting gifted children.
However, experts say the country needs more specialised staff and education modules to meet their special needs. Introduction of a legal framework regulating highly gifted children's status would also be beneficial, they say.
In Kosovo, gifted children have drawn growing attention from both civil society and the government in recent years.
At present, no advanced education programs are available for gifted children in public schools, according to Arber Morina, an adviser to the Kosovo education minister. However, the education ministry has partnered with the non-governmental Center for Psychological and Social Studies and Services to support programming for extraordinary students.
The program, called ATOMI, aims to identify and support the most intelligent Kosovo children from grades eight through 12. There are plans to expand the project until all stages of education up to university are covered.
The memorandum of understanding governing the partnership specifies that officers from the ministry and NGO are to collaborate, with the ministry offering space for summer school and classes, but no money.
"The Ministry of Education supports the ATOMI project in different forms, but not financially," Jusuf Berisha, who oversees the project, told SETimes.
Shkelzen Dragaj, a spokesman for the Kosovo Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, told SETimes his office has boosted support for talented young athletes in recent years.
"We have twice organised a Milan Junior Camp in football, where our young people have been tested from well-known coaches and after that, 10 of them were selected for further phases of training in Italy, together with many other youngsters from all over the world," he said.
He added that the ministry is drafting a new regulation and scholarship program to support gifted young sportsmen.
Jehona Xaffer, whose daughter attends the privately-run Kosovo Creative Center for gifted children, a specialised course for children age 5 to 10, called on the government to offer financial aid to promising students.
"I finance her courses. There is no government or institutional financing for the children as far as I know," she told SETimes.
Stronger support would help children like Roderika reach even greater heights, observers say. Worldwide, about 2 percent of children are considered gifted, according to the World Health Organization.