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Meet Afghan prodigy who achieved gold medal in US contests

AT News Report

KABUL: An Afghan 16-year-old genius student from the Afghan-Turk High School has brought pride to the country–where consistently schools are burnt down and education faces many hurdles – by winning gold and silver medals and certificates at an international competition of “Science and Technology” in the United States.

The talented student, Zakaria Shinwarai, from the war-weary Afghanistan secured the medals during a competition against hundreds of contestants partaking from different countries.

Mr. Zakaria Shenwarai said that he participated in a competition named Owlypia–Global the Intellectuals’ Challenge (TIC) held at Harvard University, Massachusetts, on 2-5 July.

He said that 300 students from 13 countries took part in the competition to compete in five categories such as Science and Technology, Social Sciences, Art and Design, Economic and Business Literature, and Culture – where each category had resources like books, films, videos, articles, biographies.

Students participated individually and in team, he added.

Shinwarai is posing for a photo after interview with AT reporter.

“I chose Science and Technology category and competed in the Team Challenges,” Zakaria Shinwarai told Afghanistan Times in an exclusive interview on Wednesday at the daily’s office in Kabul. 

There were five team challenges: Pen Down challenge (writing an essay or story). Knowledge challenge (multiple choice questions from resources); Speech-craft challenge (team debates on given topics); Impromptu challenge (individual speech about a given question); and Team spirit challenge (team work on multiple choice questions from resources). The theme of this competition was ‘Creativity beyond Borders’.

“I have won one gold medal, two silver medals, one bronze medal and certificates in abovementioned five categories of the competition,” he noted proudly.

The young Afghan prodigy continued that he had earlier attended similar competitions such as ‘Genius Olympiad 2019 SUNY, Oswego State University’ held in New York, USA on 17-22 June, when young people from around the world were invited to present their projects in five categories such as Science, Business, Creative Writing, Robotics and Arts.

The projects were on finding solutions to the problems related to environment – when a total of 1,400 competitors from 79 countries participated and presented their projects.

“My projects was in science category and I made and presented an instrument which had sensors and controller that diagnosed PH, turbidity, temperature and cleanness of water,” he further added.

“I was awarded with a certificate by Genius Olympiad 2019 at SUNY Oswego State University held in New York.”  

Shinwarai said that there are many opportunities for progress, lamenting the lacking of support and advocacy programs by the government. “Lack of laboratories and research centers in the country has severely marred students’ progress,” the wonder child maintained.

Expressing dissatisfaction over the lack of supportive programs within the country, he said it was his family that afforded all the expenditures of travels and the registration fees for the competitions.

All educational and related organs must strive to boost up students’ growth and development to enable them find access to all opportunities inside the country and abroad.

Presenting an example, he stated that the International Biology Olympiad (IBO) ran a long-standing competition for secondary students in the fields of life science, where four students from each country had the chance to participate. “But these students must be chosen from entirety of the country through a just selection process. However, up till now no student has participated in the program and Afghans missed out on that chance. So I hope the related organs follow and utilize from such programs by introducing talented students for further progress and not miss them.”   

Meanwhile, father of the medalist, Waqef Shah Shinwarai, said that his son was warmly welcomed by the participants because he presented hidden and beautiful side of Afghanistan in USA.

“It was shocking news for the foreigners witnessing a student from Afghanistan, where the Taliban and Daesh are torching schools take part in the competition and win medals,” the father added.

Shinwarai is celebrating his victory while waving Afghan national flag

He said that once his son’s application was rejected by the US Embassy. “The second time he succeeded to get a visa. These problems must be resolved by government so the ground is paved for talented students to find more chances and facilities for progress.”

Waqef Shah, who has financially supported his son to acquire these achievements, called on the government to give special heed to students’ progress and eliminate corruption in the education sector.

“If students didn’t have money or connections with high ranking officials in parliament or other governmental organs, they would unfortunately have no access to scholarships and other better educational opportunities.”

“There are many talented students in the capital and provinces, but they don’t have links, money and a platform to demonstrate their talents”, he lamented.  

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