Omar Salem Al Ma’aita was declared the national Arab Reading Challenge (ARC) winner in Palestine, after the statewide competition saw over 500,000 participating students race to represent their country in the semi-finals in Dubai.
Al Ma’aita snatched the title after outperforming 13 contestants, in the top 10 final spots, with his analytical and critical thinking skills, comprehension of text and ability to communicate accurately in Arabic.
Applied Nour Al-huda Schools, based in Ramallah and Al-Bireh, snatched the winning school of Palestine title, while Nablus-based Samar Hosny Al Qadh won the outstanding supervisor award in a ceremony held in Ramallah.
The ARC’s 4th edition saw an overwhelming participation of half a million students, significantly higher than last year’s candidates. Over 6,200 supervisors from 2,800 public and private schools across Palestine supported students and followed up their reading progress.
On the sidelines of the ceremony that saw educators, heads of schools, and delegates among attendees, Dr Sabri Saidam, the Minister of Education and Higher Education for Palestine, said the ARC has become a main pillar of raising young enlightened and knowledgeable critical thinkers.
He noted that the initiative reflects the presence of Palestinian students, offering them the platform to innovate and highlight their success stories.
“We hold great pride in the accomplishments that the challenge highlighted in the West Bank and Gaza,” said Saidam. He recalled Palestine’s previous victories in the challenge that included the 2017 ARC winner Afaf Raed and the 2016 winning Talaie’ Al Amal School.
“Palestine has gone beyond the participation stage to develop talents able to represent Palestine through knowledge and cultural platforms.” Saidam stressed that the “occupation will never defeat students and children of Palestine starting from Jerusalem and Gaza to every corner of the nation.”
Najla Al Shamsi, Secretary General of the ARC, congratulated Palestinian students and education authorities on the outstanding participation through a televised speech from Dubai.
She said, “The challenge does not stop here. It continues, with you, to the rest of the region flowing through the Arabian Peninsula, the Nile and the Arab Maghreb. Reigniting civilizations through knowledge is a goal you have all been uniting to achieve over the past four years.”
Competing students and schools were filtered down in a two-day evaluation round before announcing the final results in the award ceremony in Ramallah that crowned Al Ma’aita as the national winner and awarded the contenders in the top 10 spots.
The ceremony was organized by Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education in collaboration with Dubai-based Higher Committee of ARC.
Abdullah Al Nuaimi, Project Manager at Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI), noted that this year’s increased participation from Palestine embodies the challenge’s success in motivating students of all ages and nationalities to adopt the habit of reading and promote healthy competition in knowledge to build a better future for the region.
“Palestinian winners have led the competition over the past years, always managing to occupy advanced rankings in the finals. The progress represents a constant challenge for Palestinian authorities to maintain excellent performance and push it further,” said Al Nuaimi.
The ARC started its final round of qualifications last month to select the top 10 winners from each participating country. Through several elimination stages, students start competing at class level, then school level, proceeding to the level of the educational district, directorate or governorate where top 10 students are selected from each country, leading to the announcement of the national winner.
The challenge’s national winners represent their countries in two-day semi-finals in Dubai before competing for the grand prize in the final ceremony held in Dubai.
The ARC, the largest-ever Arab literacy initiative, has attracted till today over 13 million students from 49 countries, 16 of which are Arab countries, in its 4th edition with aims to instill the habit of reading among the youth.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched the challenge in 2015 to encourage one million students to read and summarize 50 books in one academic year.
While the challenge attracted 3.5 million students in its first edition, it saw double the participation with over 7.4 million students in the second year. Last year, over 10.5 million students participated after the competition opened the doors to Arab students living in foreign countries for the first time.