The 12-year-old who has made the final of TV's Child Genius

Ishal Mahmud (pictured), 12, will join four other finalists in an intense competition to find Britain's brightest child in Channel 4's Child Genius

Ishal Mahmud (pictured), 12, will join four other finalists in an intense competition to find Britain's brightest child in Channel 4's Child Genius

All this week 12-year-old Ishal Mahmud has amazed and entranced millions of television viewers. 

Calm and composed in the face of exceptional mental pressure, she has demonstrated her intellect, quick wit and the vast scope of her extraordinary knowledge, as a contestant on the TV show Child Genius.

Answering a barrage of questions that would test the virtuosity of the sharpest university undergraduate, in three out of five days she has jointly topped the leaderboard. 

Tonight, she joins four other finalists in an intense competition to find Britain's brightest child, answering questions on her specialist subject, the epidemiology of the plague.

And alongside her unassuming parents, dad Forhad and mum Momtaj, ever-present uncle Amran Hussain will be willing her on.

In fact, Uncle Amran has managed every moment of his niece's spare time. 

The Oxford graduate, who has no children of his own, has deployed every technique he knows to try to give his beloved niece the edge over her competitors, from Skyping her at her boarding school, to dishing up goose eggs at breakfast to 'feed her brain', dabbing 'concentration milk' on her temples to help her focus and sounding a Tibetan singing bowl to calm her.

Truth be told, however, Ishal needs little encouragement. 'I love it when my family push me to achieve,' she says. 'If they didn't my intelligence wouldn't improve.'

Which is just as well. Never has there been a more assertive uncle than Amran. From 7am to 9.30pm every other weekend, Ishal has an intense schedule with him that includes watching the news, writing to MPs and penning novels. 

He's even researched the best place to position her eyes to stimulate the optimum parts of her brain when answering difficult questions (straight ahead or right — never left).

Still, the sweet-faced girl with the pretty hairband remains unfazed and shows a reassuring impish side when recalling her time on the show.

'Before the show presenter Richard Osman was really funny and made lots of jokes to lighten the mood. 

He'd say, 'Oh my God, I'm scared of you guys. You're so brainy!' Then he knocked his head on the door frame — he's 6 ft 7 in,' she giggles.

Ishal, who wants to be an astronaut after studying Maths at Oxford or Cambridge, has an IQ that puts her in the top one per cent in the country. 

But she's not just academically brilliant. The breadth and scale of her talents, energy levels and determination is extraordinary.

The twelve-year-old is being helped by her Uncle Amran- an Oxford graduate who has deployed every technique he knows to try to give his beloved niece the edge over her competitors

The twelve-year-old is being helped by her Uncle Amran- an Oxford graduate who has deployed every technique he knows to try to give his beloved niece the edge over her competitors

As well as winning a full bursary and a music scholarship to St Swithun's, a high-achieving independent girls' school in Winchester, she is also sporty. 

She rides, enjoys archery, plays polo (she calls it 'hockey on a horse') and fences competitively.

While at her junior school, she was a chorister at Portsmouth Cathedral. 

Today, she's the only Muslim organist in the country (possibly the world), and a member of the Royal School of Church Music.

She chose the organ because, with its three keyboards and pedals, 'it's more of a challenge than the piano'.

'It was a struggle to fit everything in at junior school, because I'd go swimming after school, then I had extra tuition and then Mummy took me to the church to practise the organ. The priest gave us a key so we could let ourselves in.'

But there's another story emerging behind all this ambition, hard work and talent, which hasn't been lost on the Child Genius audience, and that is Uncle Amran.

So intense is his interest, and pride in his niece, that those watching often have to remind themselves that he's not Ishal's father.

His own story is one of innate brilliance. Amran, the brother of Ishal's mother Momtaj, was a child genius himself who obtained 26 GCSEs — all at top grades — at a comprehensive school in a deprived area of east London.

From there he won a place at Eton, 'But our Dad didn't want him to leave home so he didn't go,' explains Momtaj.

Although Amran missed out on a public school education, he still won a scholarship to study Medicine at Oxford and now works as a health care consultant.

But perhaps this lost opportunity has sharpened his resolve that Ishal grabs every one that comes her way.

Certainly he and his niece have a rapport: 'Uncle Amran helped me. Although he hasn't got kids he has two cats he treats like his children,' she smiles.

Today Amran, who lives in rural Berkshire, is keen to take a back seat — after all, this is Ishal's time to shine — but Momtaj says: 'Amran spoils all his 35 nieces and nephews and is keen for them all to succeed, as he has. 

'He's absolutely passionate about education and has a special bond with Ishal. They share the same sense of humour.

'When she wanted to enter Child Genius I said: 'I don't know if I can handle the pressure!' That's when Amran stepped up and said, 'I'll always be there to help.'

Such a breathless catalogue of talent as Ishal's could make a child insufferable, but she remains sweet-natured and modest. I ask how she'd describe herself.

'Adventurous and compassionate,' she says, 'I'm a daredevil! I love roller-coasters, especially the vertical drop ones. 

And I want to go bungee-jumping, but you have to weigh 45 kilos and I'm not heavy enough. 

I want to go sky-diving, and to abseil down the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth, too. But you have to be 18.'

Momtaj rolls her eyes. 'She wants to do anything and everything,' she says, adding that the sports her daughter most enjoys are the risky kind. 

'We think she's broken her nose falling off her horse playing polo,' she says. Ishal looks cheerfully unconcerned.

You might imagine her background is a privileged and wealthy one — but Ishal's family are very modest.

Forhad, 40, grafts up to 80 hours a week as a taxi driver. Momtaj, 36, works as a physiotherapist in an NHS stroke unit even though she suffers from rheumatoid arthritis.

Forhad was born and raised in Bangladesh and came to the UK to marry Momtaj, one of eight siblings brought up in east London, when she was 18.

They have imbued Ishal and her brother Zeeshan, 11, with their fierce work

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