Mohammed Ali Al Yamahi being crowned the winner of the UAE Arab Reading Challenge in Dubai on Monday. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: A grade 12 student from Fujairah, who reads four to five hours a day, was on Monday crowned the UAE winner of the Arab Reading Challenge, a competition led by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI).

Mohammed Ali Al Yamahi won the sixth edition of the competition, after outperforming354,846 students from 689 schools across the country. The students were overseen by 1,378 teachers.

He was selected from the top 10 finalists across the UAE’s educational zones during a ceremony held in Higher Colleges of Technology Men’s College in Dubai.

Sarah bint Yousif Al Amiri, minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology honoured the top 10 winners in the presence of Sarah Al Nuaimi, director of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives.

Al Nouf Elementary School for Girls from Sharjah was awarded the best school, and Mona Shaheen Al Hammadi from the Khorfakkan was selected as the best supervisor.

Speaking after the award ceremony, Al Yamahi said he read more than 200 books and learnt a lot about the Arabic language and many other topics.

“Due to the pandemic I got more time to read books,” he said. All the books that he read were taken from the library of his school, Hamad Bin Abdullah Al Sharqi School, Al Yamahi said, adding that his teachers offered immense support in competing in the challenge.

“From every book they can learn something,” he said in a message to young readers.

“I joined the competition to get an experience and to read more books and to show how important it is to read,” he said and hoped that he wanted to raise the flag of the UAE in the grand finale.

Sabiha Khalifa Dalmouk, principal of Al Nouf Elementary School, said the school came up with various initiatives involving digital tools to encourage children to read in Arabic language and other topics.

22 million participants

Al Nuaimi said this year’s challenge was the largest in the history of the competition, with some 22 million students from 44 countries participating. This year’s event was the first in two years to be held in-person. "We are very happy this is a record breaking number and despite COVID-19 we managed to reach these many people." The grand finale will be held around October in Dubai, she said.

The minister Al Amiri said the Arab Reading challenge is a very important element of the UAE’s education process and the progression of education within the country.

“Students are at the heart of the UAE’s education system. We are committed to fostering a supportive educational environment that enhances their abilities, nurtures their curiosity and learning, and sharpens their skills. The Arab Reading Challenge is an innovative educational initiative which leverages technology and smart teaching tools to help students develop.”

She said the initiative by Sheikh Mohammed aims at promoting the value of reading and learning how important is the wider spectrum of not only understanding other civilizations and understanding growth, but in completing and being more comprehensive with regards to developments across so many different fields.

The minister appreciated the students’ family members and school faculty members for supporting the initiative. “We saw a lot of teachers who have supported this journey parents who have made this a vital pillar off their own households, and more importantly, the principals of the schools and the leadership of the schools who have encouraged and push forward with this this very important challenge, and not only for the purpose of the challenge, but for the purpose of enrichment,” Al Ameri added.

Generation of readers

Launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai to encourage students to read, ARC is the largest ever Arab literacy initiative. It encourages students to read as many books as possible in one academic year. Participants have to complete reading a minimum of 50 books, give summaries and answer questions based on the books.

The second place winner Mohammed Eisa Al Hammadi, 17, a student of Al Adhwa School in Al Ain said: “My luck wasn’t that good but I got the second prize which is a big achievement for me. Participating in this competition was a new experience for me. I learnt many things.”

He congratulated the first place winner and wished him to be grand finale winner as well. “I want to congratulate Sheikh Mohammed as well as he is making a generation of children who read. Look, all these participants have read at least 50 books in a year, which is a great achievement.”

Top 10 Students

This year’s UAE competition featured 10 finalists, overseen by a judging panel. As well as recognising the winner, judges gave honourable mentions to the other nine finalists. They included Muhammad Essa Al Hammadi (grade 11 at Al Adhwa School in Al Ain), Ahmed Muhammad Al Hammadi (grade 12 at the Applied Technology High School in Ajman), Aisha Abdullah Al-Souqi (grade 10 at Fatima Al-Zahra School in Sharjah), Muhammad Ibrahim Al-Mansoori (grade 12 at the Applied Technology High School in Ras Al Khaimah), Aisha Abdullah Al-Zahmi (grade 10 at Murbah High School in Fujairah), Rawda Saeed Al Kaabi (grade 4 at Al-Shaheen School in Al-Ain), Fatima Amer Saleh (grade 11 at Mariah Al-Qibtyya School in Dubai), Mohammed Hassan Al-Kfoury (grade 9 at Al-Amir High School in Umm Al Quwain), and Abdullah Muhammad Ramadan (grade 11 at Bida Al-Mutawa School of Al-Dhafra Education Department).