Budding 'brainiac'! | Daily News

Budding 'brainiac'!

With the trophy she won at the Child Genius contest
With the trophy she won at the Child Genius contest

Big surprises come in small packages. The ideal case in point could well be Nishi Uggalle.

More than a year ago in 2016 Daily News ‘TnC’ brought news about the young lass, who was dubbed as ‘10-year-old who is smarter than Einstein’, before its readers. Nishi was in the spotlight for scoring the highest possible mark on the Mensa Supervised IQ Test.

With the other 19 contestants who took part in the Child Genius contest and the quiz master Richard Osman
Taking part in the Child Genius contest

Creating headlines across the globe once again the 12 year old girl of Sri Lankan origin stunned Britain’s Channel 4 viewers by scoring 162, beating the 160 scored by her idols Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. The Child Genius competition which ran its series six this year is held nationwide to seek Britain’s brightest eight to 12 year olds. Out of hundreds of applications only 19 exceptionally gifted children make it through to the competition. They are then tested in six grueling competitions which challenge them on their spelling, maths, memory, vocabulary, geography and science.

Nishi who hails from Audenshaw, Greater Manchester, entered the finals already armed with 16 points while three of her fellow competitors had to face a series of tie breakers as they had 12 points each.

“Winning the Child Genius 2019 title was a great achievement. It is the highest academic competition that a child can take part in within the UK. It’s a once-in-a -lifetime opportunity and I am the first Sri Lankan child to be selected into the top 20 and then to go on and win the title,” Nishi said adding that her Sri Lankan roots gave her the opportunity of having a multi-cultural and international outlook and to become bilingual.

The year nine student of Altrincham Grammar School for Girls who refers to herself as a ‘geek’ enjoys spending her spare time reading philosophy and solving complicated maths questions.

“Reading fills you with knowledge. Even reading a single page leaves you with a little more knowledge than what you started out with. Maths is different because you feel a sense of fulfillment when you get the right answer because the method that you have used had worked out,” she explained.

Nishi who just turned 13 has shown signs of her exceptional talents from a tender age. She had already completed reading Hawking’s ‘A Brief History of Time’ by the time she turned 10 years. Inspired by the famous physicist and having completed reading 10 of his books Nishi’s ambition is to be a Theoretical Physicist. Her subject of interest is in doing research on ‘black holes’ which was also her special subject at the Child Genius competition.

“I would read a book to her a few times and she could remember it word for word. She was able to count to 100 by two years. When she started nursery the staff found that Nishi liked to do activities that older kids did like puzzles and drawing. Her Primary School teacher nominated her for the National Gifted and Talented Register when she was four years,” Nishi’s father Neelanga Uggalle recalled.

Another instance in which she displayed her extraordinary capabilities was when she had asked if her father knows the answers to all the questions in the world she was four years old then. When ‘no’ had been his answer she had inquired if other people knew all the answers. Getting another ‘no’ followed by a ‘why?’, Nishi has said, ‘Because if everyone knows all the answers then I won’t have anything to do when I grow up.’

Her wish to sit for the Mensa IQ test had come on her 10th birthday.

“Looking back on this period, I feel proud that I managed to get the highest possible IQ score and be the youngest to do so. I also feel quite satisfied, because one idea that I have had fixed in my mind since I was small was that I would be on television or a newspaper one day. So it was pleasing to see that fantasy come true,” Nishi reflected on her triumph which happened three years ago.

Recalling her emotions at the finals of Child Genius, Nishi says that she had been exhilarated to enter the final stages of the competition because it had been due to a lot of hard work and effort.

“I was completely focused on the task at hand,” she said.

Though some might wonder if this child prodigy spends all her time studying, that is not the case. Nishi loves many things that other teenagers are passionate about as well. She likes to listen to music, cycle and take walks in the countryside.

“It doesn’t matter how good you are. If you just see yourself as miles better than everybody else, it’s wasted. There’s no point being incredibly clever and incredibly smart if nobody wants to talk to you because you’re a mean person,” Nishi noted.

She had already started to study GCE Ordinary Level and Advanced Level books. Her goal is to enter the Cambridge University.

Nishi’s father, Neelanga, is employed in the IT security sector and is a Vice President in Barclays Bank. Her mother, Shiromi Jayasinghe, is an accountant.

A topic she feels strongly about is ‘girl power’. Even her victory speech had been aimed at the subject.

“There are places and cultures where females don’t have the same level of freedom and respect that they deserve. My message to them would be to believe in themselves and to work towards gaining the rights they deserve. Education is the best tool you can possess. I’d like to prove that girls are just as good and girls can win too!” Nishi opined.


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