by Belinda Breeze

Vansh Gadhia a 17-year-old-student, studying at Dubai College in the UAE, has been included in the top 50 shortlist for the Chegg.org Global Student Prize 2023, an annual $100,000 award to be given to one exceptional student that has made a real impact on learning, the lives of their peers and on society beyond.

Vansh Gadhia was selected from 3,851 applications from 122 countries.

The Varkey Foundation partnered with Chegg.org to launch the annual Global Student Prize in 2021, a sister award to its $1 million Global Teacher Prize. The intention was to create a powerful new platform that shines a light on the efforts of extraordinary students everywhere who, together, are reshaping our world for the better. The prize is open to all students who are at least 16 years old and enrolled in an academic institution or training and skills programme. Part-time students as well as students enrolled in online courses are also eligible for the prize.

Award, now in its third year, recognises extraordinary achievements of young change-makers from around the world

Vansh Gadhia, a native of Kenya and a year 12 student at Dubai College, is committed to fighting inequality, and also has outstanding achievements in international debating, speaking, mathematics and coding competitions. When Vansh was 10, he was diagnosed with short-sightedness, requiring glasses, sparking a thought about how Kenya’s underprivileged children could afford such glasses. While exploring estimates for the number of children in Kenya with vision problems, he stumbled upon an NGO called Lions Club International, contacted them and asked if eye testing for the underprivileged was available. After receiving confirmation from them, Gadhia asked Al Jaber Opticals for their help manufacturing free glasses. Throughout the duration of the project, they were able to test 63,000 Kenyan children from rural parts of the country and provide 500 free frames with tailor-made lenses. Vansh was awarded The Diana award.

Moreover, for the last 2 years, Vansh has been a member of the Old Books for New Eyes initiative, set up by his sister, Khushi Gadhia, whom he mentors. The aim of the initiative is to provide old and used story books to underprivileged children across Africa to enhance literacy over the continent. He has played an important role in this process by sorting over 25,000 storybooks into various categories of age, and hand-packing them into boxes that were then shipped to Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. He was awarded at The Youth Hub in Dubai in by the Minister of State for Youth Affairs, H.E Shamma Al Mazrui, for his efforts.

In 2022, Vansh worked with the Clinical AI Lab at New York University Abu Dhabi on a machine learning project to predict urinary tract infections in the outpatient setting and minimise the use of antibiotics. Gadhia also started a project that applies machine learning to patient demographics and retinal screening to identify individuals at high risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes in Kenya. He has been able to find a correlation between Type 2 Diabetes and some tribal ethnicities and is now studying to understand the underlying reasons for such patterns. He is in discussions to implement the machine learning algorithm into the tech stack of public hospitals in Kenya and is looking to partner with mobile fundoscopy companies to scale the project to other developing countries.

UAE students have a history of excelling in the Chegg.org Global Student Prize, with two being featured in the top 50 shortlist last year

To enhance the skill and exposure to computer science, Vansh founded the Computer Science Society at Dubai College. The society enrolled more than 80 students who actively participate in discussions, projects and competitions such as Hackathons. Vansh is also an avid drummer and performed at numerous concerts at school, local and national level. He was the lead drummer for the National Youth Orchestra of the UAE.

UAE students have a history of excelling in the Chegg.org Global Student Prize, with two being featured in the top 50 shortlist last year: Amiteash Paul, a 19-year-old Biology student at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) and Maya Bridgman, a 17-year-old Canadian student at Dubai College, who went on to make the top 10. In 2021, UAE student Lamya Butt, currently studying at Stanford University, also went on to make the top 10 that year.

Heather Hatlo Porter, Head of Chegg.org and Chief Communications Officer of Chegg, Inc, said: “We are at a critical turning point as we face some of the greatest challenges in history.  Students worldwide are keenly aware of this urgency, and they are leveraging their ingenuity to overcome the significant obstacles facing them to build a better future for us all.

“Congratulations to Vansh Gadhia. Chegg not only celebrates your achievements but also the endless possibilities that exist when young minds are driven by a passion for change. The Top 50 Global Student Prize finalists deserve the opportunity to have their stories told and have their voices heard. Their dreams, wisdom, and inventive spirit will illuminate a more hopeful future for everyone.” 

Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation, said: “Vansh Gadhia’s story is a testament to the crucial role that education plays in building a better world for us all. It is the key to solving humanity’s greatest challenges, from war and conflict to climate change to growing inequality. As time runs out to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, it is more important than ever to prioritize education so we can face the future with confidence.”

Applications and nominations for this year’s Global Student Prize opened on 19 January and closed on 14 May.  Students are being assessed on their academic achievement, impact on their peers, how they make a difference in their community and beyond, how they overcome the odds to achieve, how they demonstrate creativity and innovation, and how they operate as global citizens.

Last year’s winner was Ukrainian teenager Igor Klymenko, a 17-year-old student from Kyiv, Ukraine, who moved to the countryside at the start of the Russian invasion to finish his final year of high school. Sheltered in the basement of his new home, Igor successfully completed his studies while refining the mine-detecting drone he had been working on for eight years. He was selected as the winner of the 2022 Chegg.org Global Student Prize from over 7,000 applications from more than 150 countries.

The top 10 finalists of the Global Student Prize are expected to be announced in August this year

The first winner in 2021 was Jeremiah Thoronka, a 21-year-old student from Sierra Leone, who launched a start-up called Optim Energy that transforms vibrations from vehicles and pedestrian footfall on roads into an electric current. With just two devices, the start-up provided free electricity to 150 households comprising around 1,500 citizens, as well as 15 schools where more than 9,000 students attend.

The top 10 finalists of the Global Student Prize are expected to be announced in August this year. The winner, who will be announced later in the year, will be chosen from the top 10 finalists by the Global Student Prize Academy, made up of prominent individuals.  

If students were nominated, the person nominating them was asked to write a brief description online explaining why. The student being nominated was then sent an email inviting them to apply for the prize. Applicants were able to apply in English, Mandarin, Arabic, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian.

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