Britain’s brainiest family has something to teach the rest of us
With the advent of the Anders Breivik trial in Norway, the discussion around multiculturalism has once more arisen. Breivik, who pleaded not guilty, maintained his virulent attack against multiculturalism, going so far as to state to the presiding judge, “I do not recognise the Norwegian courts. You have received your mandate from political parties which support multiculturalism.”
His words are symbolic of a rising far-right presence in Europe and Britain, which shares in his sentiments, and at times even targets particular minority communities. This was illustrated recently by Tommy Robinson, the leader of the English Defence League, whose hashtag campaign, #creepingsharia, humorously backfired as the twitter community mocked his anti-Muslim sentiments. Additionally, this year’s French presidential elections saw record support given to extreme-right candidate, Marie Le Pen. Le Pen, whose predecessor and father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, was convicted for describing the Holocaust as a detail in history, achieved almost 20% of the vote in the first round of elections.
In such a context, it is perhaps appropriate to highlight a more positive multicultural presence in Britain, one that such far-right individuals often conveniently overlook.
Paula and Peter are siblings at secondary school and members of what has been termed “Britain’s First Family of Education.” The 11 year old twins from Waltham Forest London began secondary school at the tender age of nine – two years earlier than most children in Britain. They both passed A/AS level Maths papars at the age of seven, setting a new world record, and passed the University of Cambridge’s Advanced Mathematics Paper [FAM] at the age of eight, the youngest people to ever pass the rigorous paper. Asked about their future aims, Peter intends to become Prime Minister, while Paula plans on becoming a Maths teacher.
The twins are not the first in the family to achieve so highly either. Their elder sister, Anna-Marie became the youngest Briton to graduate with a Masters degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from the University of Oxford, at the age of just 19. At age 11, another sister, Christina, was the youngest Briton to get accepted into an undergraduate programme at a British University, while yet another sister, Samantha, passed rigorous secondary school examinations in Mathematics and Statistics at the astonishing age of 6.
The family of child prodigies makes for inspirational reading, indeed. But perhaps one factor should particularly feature: Britain’s most intelligent family are black immigrants originating from Nigeria. The father of the family, Chris Imafidon, who maintains that all children are geniuses and his are no exception, migrated to London from Nigeria 30 years ago.
In a climate of heightening tensions surrounding immigration, and a rise in the far-right across Europe, the Imafidon family is a reminder of the benefit and even distinction that can be achieved through a willingness to be welcoming as new individuals join Britain and call it home.
Mr Imafidon, an ophthalmology researcher, is proving inspirational to parents. In his own words, “Every child is a genius. Once you identify the talent of a child and put them in the environment that will nurture that talent then the sky is the limit. Look at Tiger Woods, or the Williams sisters – they were nurtured.”
Imafoden is an honourary board member of the Excellence in Education programme, a privately funded programme targeting inner-city children in which Peter and Paula both take part. At a conference on academic achievement hosted at the London School of Economics, the patriarch of the family with the world’s highest number of prodigies suggested that, “the appropriate use of innovative computer tools and techniques is a bigger factor than parent’s genes, postcode, gender, or any other factor in student academic achievement.” He has called upon society to recognise the genius present in every child and to nurture this talent, regardless of the child’s background.
Perhaps it is also time to recognise the potential contribution present in every individual, regardless of their ethnic, religious or social backgrounds, and appreciate as well as celebrate the social richness that embracing diversity nurtures. That the #creepingsharia hashtag spectacularly backfired is a remarkable and positive example of communities uniting against bigotry and standing up for diversity and multiculturalism in Britain, something we should indeed be proud of. In fact, the sarcastically amusing responses could not have been more British. Meanwhile, the alarming rise of the far right in Europe stand as a warning to the complacent, with the Breivik trials a stark reminder of the fatal dangers that an absence of respect and appreciation can wreak.
Image from: www.enduringamerica.com
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