NAT 190710 ARAB.66-1562761659517
Mezna Najeeb Image Credit:

Dubai: Fifth grader Mezna Najeeb from Al Ebdaa Model School in Dubai has been declared the winner of the Arab Reading Challenge (ARC) 2019 in the UAE, after outperforming 455,000 participating students from 1,412 public and private schools.

Najeeb was selected from the top 10 finalists across the UAE’s educational zones during a ceremony held in Dubai Men’s College that saw Dh400,000 worth of prizes handed to distinguished participating students.

The Ministry of Education’s Wedad Mohammed Al Shehhi won the Outstanding Supervisor Award, while Al Rams Primary School in Ras Al Khaimah bagged the UAE’s Best School Award in results.

The Ministry of Education has collaborated with educational zones, authorities and schools across the UAE to expand the outreach of the challenge to students. Thousands of supervisors and teachers worked closely with students and guided them through diverse book selections, while schools constantly worked on upgrading and diversifying libraries with new material and organising reading initiatives all year round.

During the awards ceremony, Jameela Al Muhairi, Minister of State for Public Education, said: “In our fast-paced world, today is different from yesterday, and we are aware that tomorrow brings new challenges. If we want to stay ahead in the rapidly-changing world we live in, we must read and continue reading.”

Addressing education staff, school principals, representatives of Mohammad Bin Rashid Global Initiatives (MBRGI) and participating students, Al Muhairi added, “We read to develop our minds, to imagine and to gain new skills that can help us build a better future for the UAE. In the Year of Tolerance, we read to learn and coexist with other cultures and civilisations.”

She said that His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched the challenge to encourage the young generation to take up reading and endorse the feeling of belonging to one Arab civilisation united by their Arabic language and values. “He wanted to keep our language alive in reading, writing and publishing across the Arab world.”

Al Muhairi noted the sharp increase of participating students in the UAE throughout the years. “When the challenge was first launched in 2015, it attracted over 157,000 students in the UAE. Today, three years later, the challenge records over 50 per cent increase in participation to reach over 455,000 students across the country’s public and private schools.”

Reading ambassadors

Muna Al Kendi, Secretary General of the ARC, noted the pivotal role of reading in developing and reigniting civilisations. Addressing students, she said “A nation of young people competing to read is a great and civilised nation. Through what you achieved today, you have ignited hope and started drafting new permanent chapters of our future.”

She added, “The inspiring reading journey has taken more than 13.5 million students through diverse stories and tales, memories, experiences and sciences that must be retold. You are the new champions of knowledge and ambassadors of the Arab Reading Challenge. Through you, we will reignite our civilization.”

The challenge’s 4th edition has attracted over 13.5 million students from 49 countries, continuing the reading journey that has brought together book lovers across the world. The largest-ever Arab literacy initiative was launched in 2015 to instill the habit of reading among students, encouraging them to broaden their horizon and remain up-to-date with the latest in science and literature. The challenge aims to equip the young generation to build the future of the Arab world and lead the journey of human civilisation.

The top 10 UAE finalists:

Mezna Najeeb, Grade 5 at Al Ebdaa Model School in Dubai

Hend Fahad Al Nahdi, Grade 11 at Al Dhait Secondary School for Girls in Ras Al Khaimah.

Hamdan Jamal, Grade 11 at RAK Modern Private School.

Mona Sooud, Grade 9 at Al Mairid School in Ras Al Khaimah.

Abdullah Roshdi, Grade 7 at Al Falahiya School in Abu Dhabi.

Ohoud Adel, Grade 10 at Dibba Fujairah Secondary School.

Sabah Naji, Grade 11 at Al Dhait Secondary School for Girls in Ras Al Khaimah.

Mohammed Al Ketbi, Grade 9 at Al Dhaid Secondary School for Boys in Sharjah.

Asma Ibrahim Al Kamali, Grade 12 at Waset Model School for Higher Education (Girls) in Sharjah

Alyazia Al Zaabi, Grade 2 at Hamdan bin Zayed School in Abu Dhabi.

13.5 million students

ARC’s final round of qualifications started last March to narrow down 13.5 million participating students to 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 in collaboration with ministries of education, 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.