For the third year in a row, Hindustan Times is rolling out a scholarship programme to recognise and reward 50 of Mumbai’s brightest young minds. From schools across the city, 10 students each from Classes 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 will be chosen through a rigorous screening process, which is already under way. Each of these 50 students will get Rs 50,000.
The first year of the scholarship programme saw more than 27,000 applications. Last year, more than 42,000 applied. A professional agency shortlists 150 students after a careful consideration of various parameters and consultation with the prinicipals of the schools concerned.
HT Mumbai’s editor, Soumya Bhattacharya, and I then interview and select 50 students, 10 for each class, out of this shortlist. Of course, our choice is subjective as it will be in any interview. But the process we follow is painstaking and based on objective, quantifiable parameters. We are confident that we have made fair choices over the past two years.
We first read and re-read the 150 essays on the shortlist. What do we look for? How much of a helping hand have the children got from teachers and parents? Do they really understand what they have written? Are their responses coached? But this is only one aspect of the process.
The really absorbing part for both of us is the interview. Talking to these confident young girls and boys is always fascinating, but often heart-breaking too: when we have to choose. We end up wishing we could give them all scholarships, but that cannot be. The children are more relaxed about this than we are. They tell us that they’ll just try again if they don’t succeed this time.
The children walk in expecting a formal quizzing session. But once they figure that all they have to do is have a conversation about all manner of things, they open up. We discuss, sports, movies, books, and even parents and teachers. Often, the children ask us when we are going to ask them questions. Sometimes, just to make them smile, we ask them the usual questions they have prepped for.
The students on the shortlist are generally good at studies and articulate. We try to zero in on children who think about the world around them, who do not blindly spout whatever they are taught.
Over the next five days, we will publish short pieces by our 2012 scholarship awardees. Today, the Class 5 awardees write about the person who has impressed them the most.
The whole process culminates with an awards function, which all at HT look forward to as parents and friends of the winners turn up in large numbers and raise the roof cheering them.