A Moroccan girl, aged only 9 years old, has won $136k (120,000 Euros) in an Arabic-language competition set up by the Dubai government, and his Royal Highnesses Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.
Maryam Amjoun competed against other finalists, all aged under 18, for the coveted title of winner of the third annual Arab Reading Challenge.
Participants in this year’s Arab Reading Challenge numbered over 10.5million, with students from every Arab country taking part in the challenge, which asks students to read more than 50 books in order to qualify for a chance to be crowned the winner.
The competition is open to all students from years 1 to 12 across the Arab world, and starts every year in September, running through until March. Students are encouraged to progress through five stages within the challenge, which involves reading ten books at each stage.
The final stage is reached once elimination is completed, at local level, within schools across all Arab countries. The finals are held annually in Dubai in October.
According to Al Bawaba, when this year’s winner was announced Amjoun burst into tears of joy, prompting the Dubai ruler to wipe her tears with his ghutra.
Amjoun said, after the award ceremony, that she had “expected to win because I prepared for this challenge very well. Since 2017, I have been reading books, summarising them and trying to understand their content. I knew I was going to be the champion.”
She continued “Reading can help fight poverty and ignorance. It is like a hospital to the mind.”
She has stated that the prize money will be used for her university education, and shared with her family for encouraging her to read.
The finalists in the competition have 60 seconds to answer just one question posed by the panel of judges. The audience then select the winner of their choice in an instant poll.
There are other major awards within the competition; this year’s title of Outstanding Reading Supervisor went to Aisha Al-Tuwairqi, from Saudi Arabia, who bagged $82,000, Tasneem Eidi, from France, who was awarded $27,000 for her reading efforts in a non-Arab country, and a school in Kuwait won $270,000 for the best reading initiatives for students.
The competition, which was launched in 2015, aims to raise awareness of the importance of reading for students, promote Arabic language skills and literacy, broaden knowledge, develop emotional and intellectual intelligence, and encourage patriotism amongst Arab peoples, wherever they reside in the world.