Resilience, overcoming obstacles and pushing through hardships amid the Covid-19 pandemic will be the focus of this year’s Student of the Year awards, which are celebrating their 40th anniversary.
Hundreds of secondary school pupils are expected to compete for 11 awards in nine categories including science, languages, sports and performing arts, with students expected to demonstrate academic excellence as well as engagement with and contributions to the community.
Face-to-face classes at Hong Kong schools were suspended for most of last year due to the pandemic, with many pupils still learning online this year. Most schools have only been allowed to bring back one-third of their student population for in-person lessons.
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Different surveys by NGOs have shown that many pupils found it harder to concentrate and learn at home, especially underprivileged kids who lacked electronic devices and internet connections.
Advisory board members for the awards, organised by the South China Morning Post and sponsored by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, said they expected shortlisted pupils to demonstrate resilience, passion and curiosity.
Gary Liu, the Post’s CEO and one of the board members, said he believed resilience was one of the most critical traits that young people should develop, pointing out the ongoing pandemic had presented “new and unforeseen challenges for students and teachers alike”.
“Education has been impacted particularly hard by Covid-19 and students have experienced deep consequences from this global shutdown,” said Liu. “Despite the innovation of online classes, the disruptions to learning have taken a toll on grades and student engagement around the world, including in Hong Kong”.
He added: “The physical absence from school, friends and teachers can further affect a students’ connection to learning, and it is more important than ever to encourage positive engagement.”
Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, awards board member and CEO of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, which provided free mobile internet for some 100,000 underprivileged students last year, said the pandemic’s toll could be “stressful and even overwhelming”, but students could to learn to handle unprecedented challenges and move forward.
“It’s not easy to succeed. You will without doubt encounter setbacks and things will not always go as planned,” Engelbrecht-Bresges said.
“I’m looking for individuals who are not put off by challenges. Instead, they look at them as opportunities for growth, move forward and continue to work towards their ambitions.”
Nominations for this year’s awards run until April 30, and shortlisted candidates are expected to be notified by the end of May. An award ceremony is planned to be held in summer. Self-nominations and ones from individuals, schools, NGOs and companies are accepted.
Winners and runners-up will receive scholarships between HK$2,000 and HK$25,000.
Last year’s grand prize went to 17-year-old student Dylan Robinson, who was a co-founder of a community project designed to help the city’s disadvantaged children and an advocate for freedom of speech and human rights.