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