Chal­lenge com­plete

▶ Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Rashid wipes away win­ning girl’s tears

The National - News - - FRONT PAGE - Les­lie Pableo for The Na­tional

Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Rashid, Vice Pres­i­dent and Ruler of Dubai, com­forts Arab Read­ing Chal­lenge grand win­ner Maryam Amjoun, 9, of Morocco, when it all got too much at Dubai Opera.

An­thems were sung, flags waved and crowds cheered as Dubai wel­comed a new cham­pion of the Arab Read­ing Chal­lenge yes­ter­day.

Moroc­can Maryam Amjoun, 9, was an­nounced to be the win­ner of the com­pe­ti­tion, now in its third year, which is the largest Arab knowl­edge ini­tia­tive in the world.

More than 10.5 mil­lion pupils from more than 52,000 schools in 44 coun­tries took part. Maryam was pre­sented her award, which in­cludes a cash prize of Dh500,000, by Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Rashid, Vice Pres­i­dent and Ruler of Dubai.

Over­whelmed by the drama and the cel­e­bra­tions, Maryam burst into tears and Sheikh Mo­hammed used his ghutra to wipe them away.

“I say to the win­ners that they are the lead­ers of the fu­ture,” he told the au­di­ence. “With ed­u­ca­tion and knowl­edge a per­son can reach any goal. And we will see you next year.”

The com­pe­ti­tion chal­lenges par­tic­i­pants be­tween the ages of eight and 18 to read a min­i­mum of 50 Ara­bic books over one aca­demic year. Con­tes­tants are then tested on their un­der­stand­ing of them.

The con­tent of 50 books may be a lot to re­tain but Maryam said she was un­daunted.

“I was ex­pect­ing to be the win­ner of the Arab Read­ing Chal­lenge,” she said. “The ques­tions were easy and I was fully pre­pared. I was told that in ev­ery chal­lenge there are hard­ships but I never gave up.

“I like to read books that treat prob­lems, such as so­cial books, in ad­di­tion to read­ing his­tory and sci­en­tific books and books about morals and ethics.

“When I grow up, I would like to be­come an ar­chi­tect like the Iraqi ar­chi­tect Zaha Ha­did.”

Maryam’s fa­ther, Amjoun Lah­san, said that for the past year the fam­ily had sat to­gether to read ev­ery day. To­gether, they would sum­marise, an­a­lyse and crit­i­cise the sto­ries they read.

“It is a great feel­ing when a fig­ure like Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Rashid bends down to wipe her tears and kiss her fore­head,” Mr Lah­san said. “That’s a mes­sage to Maryam – it is a mo­tive to con­tinue read­ing and do what she is do­ing.

“She al­ready knows her ca­reer path. She wants to be an ar­chi­tect. In the past year, she read many books and was in­tro­duced to the work of Zaha Ha­did, the fa­mous ar­chi­tect.”

This year, the com­pe­ti­tion opened for the first time to Arab pupils who live out­side the Arab world, and there was a 25 per cent in­crease in con­tes­tants.

Aisha Al Tuwairqi, from Saudi Ara­bia, won Dh300,000 af­ter be­ing cho­sen as this year’s most out­stand­ing teacher.

Al Ikhlas School in Kuwait won the ti­tle of out­stand­ing school, scoop­ing Dh1 mil­lion.

Tas­neem Eidi, 12, from France and orig­i­nally Syria, won the cat­e­gory for pupils who live out­side an Arab coun­try.

“I am plan­ning to cre­ate a book club in France,” Tas­neem said.

“I want to build up this club and en­cour­age Arabs in France to read more in Ara­bic.”

Sheikh Mo­hammed launched the Arab Read­ing Chal­lenge in 2015 to en­cour­age a mil­lion stu­dents to read 50 books in one year.

The chal­lenge raises aware­ness about the im­por­tance of read­ing among Arab pupils and the im­por­tance of the lan­guage.

It en­hances their ed­u­ca­tion, helps them de­velop self-learn­ing and self-ex­pres­sion skills as well as crit­i­cal and cre­ative think­ing.

The com­pe­ti­tion chal­lenges par­tic­i­pants be­tween 8 and 18, to read 50 Ara­bic books over one aca­demic year

Les­lie Pableo for The Na­tional

The clos­ing cer­e­mony of the third Arab Read­ing Chal­lenge at Dubai Opera. More than 10.5 mil­lion pupils from 44 coun­tries took part in the com­pe­ti­tion

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