Wise Decisions

Youngsters in Kashmir have started taking control of their education. This year, three students bagged UWC scholarships for International Baccalaureate diploma at select United World Colleges, reports Minhaj Masoodi

Kashmir’s new UWC scholars 2021: (L to R) Anayat Yousuf, Sayim Qadri and Sabzara Ali.

Anayat Yousuf’s happiness knows no bounds. His dream of studying abroad has finally come true. A twelfth standard student, Inayat recently bagged a United World Colleges (UWC) Scholarship worth Rs 60 lakh. He is set to fly to Germany where he would pursue International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma at UWC Robert Bosch College, Freiberg.

Son of a shopkeeper, Inayat has done everyone in his family and his village proud.

A resident of Pinjoora (Shopian), Anayat did his initial schooling at Sunshine Public School, Pinjoora.

A Shopkeeper’s Son

After completing his eighth class examination, Anayat relocated to Srinagar where he got himself enrolled at the Kashmir Education Institute (KIE) Higher Secondary School, Nowgam. It was during this time that he got acquainted with Kashmir Education Initiative (KEI), a US-based non-profit that supports the education of underprivileged children in Kashmir.

It was here that Inayat was introduced to the idea of preparing for the UWC scholarship. UWC is a global education movement, which has 18 schools and colleges spread across four continents, the majority of which focus exclusively on the 16-19 age group. These colleges teach International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma as their formal curriculum.

The process for UWC scholarships started last September. The applicants had to write essays, following which they were shortlisted for interviews, out of which a select few were chosen for the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma programme in various countries. The whole process is overseen by UWC national committees in over 150 different countries.

“There was a counselling session at KEI, where we were made aware of these scholarships. Everything followed from thereon,” says Anayat. “The selection process, however, was very rigorous.”

“The admission process started in September 2020 in which thousands of students appeared throughout India. Only 140 were selected for an interview,” he adds.

After clearing the initial stage of the examination, Anayat appeared for an interview on March 2. He finally received his selection call on June 2.

Anayat’s is one of the only 20 students to have been selected for the two-year overseas programme from India, this year.

With his achievements, Anayat has done his parents proud. “Education is the most powerful weapon and my son has proved it. I am proud of him and his effort,” said his father, Mohammad Yousuf  Dhobi. His mother, who is a homemaker, is equally proud.

Youngest among three siblings in the family, Anayat always dreamt of studying abroad. “My dream is fulfilled,” he says.

However, the UWC scholarship is not the only feather in his cap. Anayat has a host of achievements to his credit. He has a medal of distinction for achieving Zonal Rank 19 in SOF-National Science Olympiad 2020-21 and an International Rank 533. He is also a silver medallist in Goprep Talent Search Examination.

Besides, academics, Anayat has also done a project on the utilization of waste paper and the preservation of handicrafts in the 26th National Science Congress and is an active member of Design for Change-USA, a global student’s movement where Anayat says he has been taught Metacognition, leadership skills among others.

However, with the grant of scholarship, Anayat has dropped his plans of appearing for the National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) “I know people here are obsessed with NEET and JEE, but there is a world beyond them.”

He now wants to build upon his studies in Germany. “UWC scholars can do further studies in the United States from very prestigious universities such as MIT, Harvard and University of Pennsylvania among others.

During the course of preparation, he says the support of his parents and his siblings was very crucial. “I left my NEET preparation mid-way. But my parents and my brothers supported me, particularly my eldest brother who has completed his bachelor’s in engineering.”

The Alasteng Girl

Anayat is not alone. Sabzara Ali has also secured the UWC scholarship. Brought up by a single mother, Sabzara is currently studying in eleventh grade. He also came to know about the UWC scholarship through KEI counselling.

After applying for the scholarship programme, Sabzara says that she went through various stages of the exam, and was finally selected for UWC Adriatic, Italy with a total scholarship of Rs 50 lakh.

From Alasteng (Ganderbal), Sabzara had applied for the programme when she was studying in the tenth standard. She is presently studying humanities at Government Girls Higher Secondary School, Soura. Unlike Anayat who wants to build upon her studies in Germany, Sabzara wants to continue pursuing humanities once her two-year sojourn in Italy is over.

“I want to study further economics after the diploma ends,” Sabzara said.

During the course of preparation, however, Sabzara revealed that her family did not initially understand her. But, after doing the research, I got the support of everyone, particularly my mother and maternal uncle.

“I was very nervous during the course of the preparation because this was a huge opportunity. Its enormity dawned upon me from time to time. But my mother and my maternal uncle were hugely supportive after they understood the programme,” she said.

A Lal Bazar Boy

Srinagar has also a young who did it on his own. Sayim Qadri from Lal Bazar, Srinagar is also a class eleventh student.  Sayim has also bagged the United World Colleges (UWC) Scholarship. But, unlike the rest of the two students, he is not going abroad.  He has been given the Mahindra College located at Pune, India with a total grant of Rs 19 lakh.

Son of a lawyer and a teacher, Sayim was initially introduced to the idea of UWC by his uncle.

“My uncle guided me regarding International Baccalaureate (IB). He had earlier guided my cousin who later got admission in a boarding school to pursue IB.”

After passing his ninth class examination, Sayim started exploring and gathering information regarding IB from different websites. His cousin also chipped in to help him from time to time.

“While I got a good amount of information from the internet, the UWC website was very helpful in understanding IB and UWC.”

Later, it was with the help of KEI that Sayim was fully acquainted with UWC and its processes. It was here that Sayim and others were groomed for the exam.

“KEI held a zoom session where UWC alumni from Kashmir made us understand the objectives, pattern and process of application of the UWC in a clear manner. We were given mock tests from time to time, our essays were reviewed which helped us a long way in our preparation for the examination,” Sayim said.

After completing the formalities, the tests commenced. “At first, we wrote an examination where we wrote four essays on general topics. Then students were shortlisted for interview and I got my interview call after five months. The teachers at KEI and UWC Alumni interaction helped a lot during that stage.”

The interview took place in February after which Sayim also got the confirmation letter that he had been selected. He is scheduled to join the college in August.

Like Anayat, Sayim was also preparing for NEET. He now has dropped the idea. However, he is unsure what he wants to do after his diploma ends. Right now, he just intends to go with the flow.

“I am not sure what I want to do ahead. The basic focus right now is to complete the IB Diploma,” he adds.

At a time, when the world around has been filled with gloom and despair the news of these kids has brought a cheer and smile to the faces of many. Interestingly, last year Mahin Akram, a Bemina resident and a KEI scholar, who did her IB from Mahindra College in Pune, is currently studying at Wellesley College in the USA, the alumni of which include Hillary Clinton.

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