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We Have a Champion

Johanna Esther of Holy Angels ISC School in Thiruvananthapuram wins IAYG’s Kerala Geography & Global Studies Challenge

15 OCTOBER 2020  •  Anushka Satpathy, Kyle Singson, and Phillip Meng

From left to right, top to bottom: Summary video, champion Johanna Esther of Holy Angels ISC School, and part of the geographic analysis speech event 

IAYG’s Kerala State Geography and Global Studies Challenge came to an exciting conclusion on 27 September 2020, as Johanna Esther N. of Holy Angels School in Thiruvananthapuram won the title in competition with twelve of Kerala’s top geography students. 

The twelve finalists had made it to the finals by achieving nearly perfect scores in the preliminary rounds, which were held in three sessions on 20, 23, and 24 September 2020. More than one hundred and ten of the state’s most promising pupils participated in these rounds. IAYG is grateful for the enormous interest of the region’s students, and for the work of local supporters, with particular thanks to University of Kerala PhD research scholar Mr Midhun Manohar.

The competition opened at 9:00 with an opening statement by IAYG President Phillip Meng, who recognized students’ strong performances in the preliminary rounds, followed by Programme Chair Rishi Gorrepati, Content Development Specialist Alex Gee (speaking on behalf of himself and Lucas Mansfield, co-leads), and Sonnet Salice, the Programme Director in Kerala. Neha Sreekumar, a BA Candidate in Geography at the University of Kerala was selected as the moderator. Ms. Sreekumar had also been a distinguished moderator in the preliminary rounds, alongside students from the University of Kerala and other regional universities, assisted by time and scorekeepers in other parts of the world.

The competition’s format explored a diverse array of questions, including innovative rounds that challenged students in map interpretation, knowledge of natural resources and heritage sites, and categories on biodiversity, landmarks, and tourism. Two semi-final rounds, consisting of one oral round, one written round, and a round of video questions, were conducted where 6 out of the 12 contestants were eliminated. Following this, there was the final round wherein further elimination of 4 more contestants took place. There were two written rounds with one video round. For the video rounds, the programme invited Kyle Singson, Deputy Director for Communications & Public Affairs and Aaron Francisco, Director for Programme and Impact Planning, to ask challenging questions. The remaining two contestants became eligible for the championship round. 

In the championship round, contestants were challenged in a new way: applying geographic analysis on the spot through a one-minute analysis speech on the infrastructure, climate, and services conditions for a bid for the Olympic Games. Both of the two championship round contestants, Johanna Esther N. from Holy Angels School Trivandrum and Vinayak S. from Loyola School Trivandrum, offered thoughtful responses: Johanna cited New Delhi’s experience with the Commonwealth games, while Reshmi referred to Mumbai’s airports, stadium, and moderate pollution. 

Finally, in a close-matched championship round, Johanna won on the final question with a score of 8-7. She will receive a customized trophy and ₹2000 prize. We offer great congratulations to Reshmi, who will also receive a customized trophy, and to the distinguished finalists from across the state. They are listed according to their position below: 



Johanna Esther (Holy Angels ISC School, 8th grade)

Vinay S (Loyola School, 7th grade)

Kishan Sivdas (Loyola School 7th grade)

Deekshita S (Bhavan’s Vidyamandir Elamakkara, 9th grade)

Rhea Ann Roy (Bhavan’s Vidyamandir Elamakkara, 9th grade)

Shivshankar A (Loyola School, 10th grade)

Gautham Krishna K (Loyola School, 11fh grade)

Harith Mohan (Bhavan’s Vidyamandir Elamakkara, 7th grade)

Rohit Rakesh (Bhavan’s Vidyamandir Elamakkara, 9th grade)

Adithya A (Cochin Refineries School, 9th grade)

Surya R (Bhavan’s Vidyamandir Elamakkara, 9th grade)

Padmanabh M.R (Cochin Refineries School, 9th grade). 



As Programme Chair Rishi Gorrepati, who oversaw content development and logistical planning, shared during the opening ceremony, in many nations like India, STEM fields have long captured more of the country’s imagination than fields like geography. IAYG hopes to highlight the importance of geography and further people’s interest in it for a diverse and sustainable future. 

The twelve students who competed on Sunday proved to be leaders towards that goal. Asked at the beginning to share why geography mattered to them, they reflected on its value in connecting people and offering insight on the world.

And as Programme Director in Kerala Sonnet Salice, who coordinated outreach, student registrations, and volunteer recruitment from Trivandrum noted, inspiring more young people in geographic education is a significant effort. 

But in the end, “students’ experience makes it worth it,” says IAYG President Phillip Meng. “It is enormously exciting for us to create this opportunity for students in Kerala and we will be evaluating how we can extend the programme to more parts of India.”

“I love geography and [this] is the first time attending a geography quiz,” says participant George Sadrish Veliyath. “I had a lot of fun participating.” •

Clockwise from top-left: finals trophies, a Kerala-focused visual in the preliminary round, runner-up Vinay S, a map visual, and champion Johanna Esther


Anushka Satpathy

News and Media Specialist

[email protected]

Rishi Gorrepati

Programme Chair

Global Director, Programme Development

[email protected]

Sonnet Salice

Programme Director in Kerala

[email protected]