Schmerenbeck Educational Centre for Gifted and Talented Children

The Schmerenbeck Educational Centre for Gifted and Talented Children, an organisation based at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, promoted, encouraged and fostered the education of gifted children within South Africa. The centre was originally housed on campus in portable prefabricated buildings before it moved to a house in the Johannesburg suburb of Parktown opposite the University of the Witwatersrand's Education Department.

Schmerenbeck Educational Centre for Gifted and Talented Children
South Africa
Former names
The Association for the Education of Gifted Children in South Africa (A.E.G.C.)
TypePublic university
Established11 September 1971 (as the Association for the Education of Gifted Children in South Africa) 19 November 1980 (formally established as the Schmerenbeck Educational Centre)
PresidentProfessor S.P. Jackson (1971-1979)
DirectorMs Beverly Kahn (1979)

Dr Gillian Eriksson (1980-1991)

Ms Eva Biebuyck (1991-1992)
Location, ,
26°11′27″S 28°1′49″E


Formation of the Association for the Education of Gifted Children in South Africa 1970-1975

In 1970, lecturers in the Mathematics and Computer Departments of the University of the Witwatersrand were approached by parents of gifted children to provide challenging out-of-school activities. Thereafter, a group of lecturers established a steering committee chaired by Dr Ferrandi, and The Association for the Education of Gifted Children in South Africa (A.E.G.C.) was formed on 11 September 1971. Professor S.P. Jackson, deputy vice-chancellor and dean of the Faculty of Education, became the chairman. He held this position until 1979.

In 1971, over 150 school principals were approached to nominate pupils, who were then tested on individual intelligence tests by the Department of Psychology. 60 children were tested and 20 selected with scores over 140160. Courses were offered in computers, mathematics, astronomy, television and chess to these 60 children, with higher level courses for the 20 highly gifted.

In 1973 Jackson visited the United Kingdom to research best practices and ensure that the programmes offered were on international lines.

In 1975 two members of the executive attended the First World Conference for Gifted and Talented Children in London.


According to the constitution, adopted on 18 November 1975, the objective was to promote, encourage and foster the education of gifted children within South Africa through liaison, information and educational programmes for pupils, parents and teachers.

Creation of the Schmerenbeck Educational Centre in terms of the Schmerenbeck bequest 1975-1979

In 1973, Ami Schmerenbeck of Windhoek showed interest in the education of gifted children and the work of the A.E.G.C. After her death in April 1975, her sister, Suzanne Sittman, trustee of the Schmerenbeck estate, negotiated with Professor Bozzoli regarding the establishment of the "Ami and Kurt Schmerenbeck Fund". As the constitution of the A.E.G.C. was a voluntary association and not a corporate body, the funds were given to the university. The terms of the bequest stipulated that the money be used for the practical provision of educational courses for gifted students and not for research purposes. Professor Kahn, deputy vice-chancellor, became the university representative on the Executive of the A.E.G.C. In February 1978, a meeting was held with Prof Jackson and heads of Education and Psychology, the deputy vice-chancellor, and it was agreed that a director be appointed who would have an affiliation to a university department. In 1979 the first director, Beverly Kahn, was appointed.

It was agreed that a portion of the bequest be used to establish a centre for the activities of the A.E.G.C. and a prefab Hut A on campus was renovated, equipped and developed to suit the needs of the activities. Activities began in the building in January 1977 and on 26 February 1977 Sittman formally opened the "Schmerenbeck Educational Centre".[1]

Incorporation of the Schmerenbeck Centre into the University of the Witwatersrand 1980-1984

At a meeting of the A.E.G.C. 19 November 1980, under the chairmanship of Dr J.F. van Zyl, a resolution was passed that the university take over the Schmerenbeck Educational Centre (SEC) and that the A.E.G.C. be dissolved according to the constitution. The running of the SEC would fall under a Council Board of Control and an Advisory Committee. On 11 December 1980 the agreement with the university was signed.

Model for an effective centre

In 1980 Dr Gillian Eriksson was appointed director and an administrative secretary was appointed. In 1981, due to increased numbers, a position of assistant to the director was created and receptionists were appointed. In 1991 Eva Biebuyck became the director. A clinical psychologist was appointed to do the assessments and placements.

As a result of local and international visits and research, the director presented a model for an effective operational education centre in a report in August 1981 (Eriksson, 1981). Objectives included:

  • The actualization of intellectual, social, emotional and physical potential in children who have high abilities in diverse areas including the disadvantaged and disabled;
  • To provide diagnostic psycho-educational assessment which is multifaceted, individualized and appropriate for the child;
  • To create a differential educational programme relevant to the needs of the children through acceleration, enrichment, self-study, skill development;
  • To communicate the needs of high ability children, to advise schools and teachers on programmes and provide in-service training
  • To encourage research in liaison with other University departments

The structure of the Centre would include four units:

  • Services (educational programming)
  • Communications (publications, liaison and information)
  • Research and training for certification.
  • Psycho-educational assessment.

This model formed the basis of the development of the SEC which operated a comprehensive system, not only providing services for a large group of gifted children but also forming the basis of advocacy for gifted education throughout South Africa and a catalyst for change. Teachers at the SEC were given in-service training and a publication was developed to guide the development of their courses and provide a range of appropriate strategies. The director taught courses in the Education Department and provided a range of workshops for parents and teachers on gifted education. Over this period it developed publications such as the journal Metamind in 1984 and a collection of student work, the Schmerenbeck Scrapbook, edited by students.

The director took an active role in advocating for gifted children internationally, attending the world conferences and was elected a national delegate to the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children.

Move to 3 Trematon Place, Parktown 1985-1992

The SEC occupied a historical building at 3 Trematon Place from 1985.

"Trematon House started as a modest home for E Holmes in 1902. In 1910 the house was redeveloped as a boarding house with dormitories and bedrooms, a dining hall, kitchen and communal bathroom and toilets for the Parktown Preparatory School PTPS. The style is late Edwardian and Geoffrey E Pearse was the architect. Pearse was appointed the first Professor of Architecture at Wits in 1921 and had the distinction of being the first Professor of Architecture in South Africa. The Foundation stone was laid by Sir Lionel Phillips in 1913 and the project was completed in 1914. The PTPS building was itself demolished to make way for EOH. Wits acquired the building in 1963 and it served as the home of the Institute for Adult Education" (Wits News room), then the Schmerenbeck Centre until 1992.

It was converted into a university residence and in 2010 Trematon House houses international students.

Differentiation of the programme

The SEC operated a comprehensive range of programmes with over 70 teachers and up to 1431 students in classes (largest number from 1986). As a result of the large numbers, the general classes were differentiated to serve specific types and ages of gifted children.

Levels of programming

  • MICROCAPES: Enrichment programme for preschool gifted children (from 1985). Created in terms of the concentration span, developmental stages, activity patterns of preschool and grade children who show high potential.
  • PROJECTS PLUS for primary (elementary) gifted children (from 1981) including core courses, enrichment courses, acceleration courses, excursion courses, research. Designed to challenge and enrich gifted children from standard 1 to 5 through stimulating classes that generate a love of learning.
  • CREATIVE ARTS Programme for Talented Children (from 1984) standard 110, that included core courses, arts workshops, and integrated arts workshops.
  • YOUTH UNIVERSITY: Programme for high school students (from 1988) that assisted them with the transition to university.
  • Outreach programmes to local communities.

Dissolution of the Schmerenbeck Educational Centre 1992-1995

From 1986, numbers began to drop due largely to the programmes created by the Transvaal Education Department which were initiated from 1982 and implemented in centres in 1986. Due to changes within the university in relation to the structure and financing of the SEC, the university decided to close the SEC in 1992.

The Advisory Committee and director, Eva Biebuyck, created a private entity to continue the work of the SEC and established premises in a private house in Oxford Road, Rosebank which continued to operate until 1995, when it was closed.


Eriksson. G.I. (1990) Initiation and Development of the Schmerenbeck Educational Centre: 1970-1990. Report: University of The Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Eriksson, G.I. (1987) "An Educational Centre for Growth: Johannesburg, Republic of South Africa." Gifted Child Today , vol. 10 no. 4 pp. 25–28 Jul-Aug 1987. Retrieved from

Eriksson (1985) Reflections on Giftedness: A Guide for Students, Parents and Teachers. Pretoria: HAUM Publishers

Adams H. B.; Wallace, B (1993) World Perspectives on the Gifted Disadvantaged. London: AB Academic


Years Director
1980 - 1992
  • Dr Gillian Eriksson
1992 - 1995
  • Eva Biebuyck


  1. "EXPLORING THE PAST GIVES NEW MEANING TO THE PRESENT". wits student news room. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
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