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Jordanian Abdullah Abu Khalaf Crowned Champion in the 5th Arab Reading Challenge

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Jordanian teenager Abdullah Abu Khalaf has been declared the champion of the 5th Arab Reading Challenge in a live TV ceremony aired on MBC Channel on Monday.

Abu Khalaf, 17, bagged a prize of AED 500,000 in a ceremony held under the patronage and participation of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

The winner outperformed the other four finalists, with Sarah Al Daeef from Morocco named second, Diaa Al Qaisum from Saudi Arabia named third, Yousra Mohammed Al Imam from Sudan in fourth, and Abdul Rahman Mansour Ahmed Mohammed from Egypt in fifth.

Displaying intellect, knowledge, eloquence and character, Abu Khalaf emerged triumphant among the 5th edition’s 21 million participants from 52 countries across the world.

Moza Al Ghanna from the UAE bagged the AED300,000 Outstanding Supervisor award for her efforts in guiding and motivating students to participate in various stages of the challenge – especially amid the pandemic. She was selected from 120,000 participating supervisors in this year’s challenge.

Egypt’s Al Ghoraib School for Basic Education won the AED1 million Best School award, outperforming 96,000 schools with activities and efforts to make reading an integral part of students’ lifestyle.

During the event, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said in a video speech, “Passion for the Arabic language persisted during the coronavirus pandemic.”

Congratulating the winners, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said, “I thank the 21 million Arab students who participated in the challenge despite the pandemic.”

He noted, “I would have loved to meet the finalists like I do every year in the UAE, but the circumstances posed by pandemic prevented that.”

“Reading will remain our shield against any difficult times. We will soon you all soon in the UAE.”

The ceremony, hosted by His Excellency George Kordahi, the recently announced Lebanese Minister of Information, was broadcasted on MBC Channel and the Arab Reading Challenge website. It showcased the inspiring journey of participants in this year’s challenge amid the exceptional circumstances posed by the pandemic, demonstrating the power of reading to overcome difficult times.

The 5th edition has particularly captured the success of the Arab Reading Challenge in establishing a reading habit in millions of Arab homes across the world.

Winners of the challenge, which distributes awards totaling AED11 million, received their awards this year through UAE embassies and diplomatic envoys in the targeted countries.

Winner of the challenge
Abu Khalaf received the news of his win as the Arab Reading Champion via a surprise visit from His Excellency Ahmed Ali Al Balushi, the UAE Ambassador to Jordan, who congratulated him and his family on his remarkable achievement.

He had stood out in successive judging committees with his confidence and clarity with which he expressed his ideas and opinions, underlining the role of reading in building skills and capabilities and transforming individuals into active contributors to their communities.

Best School Award
While Egypt’s Al Ghoraib School for Basic Education was named the Best School, Al Hassad Al Tarbawi School in Jordan came second, and Alanjal Private School from Saudi Arabia came in third. The winning schools were selected based on their success in raising the participation rate of students in the Arab Reading Challenge and in creating a solid habit of reading.

Outstanding Supervisors
While Emirati Moza Al Ghanna took home the Outstanding Supervisor award, Asma Saqr from Tunisia came in second, and Khaled Al Bukiri from Morocco received the third place.

A hero of determination
In the category of Arab students living in foreign countries, Alexander Voros from Italy was crowned the Arab Reading Champion, taking home a prize of AED100,000. Voros, a teenager with special needs, inspired millions for his persistence and determination to learn the Arabic language, which is not his mother tongue.

Afnan Abdulghani from Malaysia won second place, while Farah Al Ayoubi from Netherlands came third.

Special Tribute
The closing ceremony featured an emotional video as a tribute to Al Taher bin Ahmed, the Arab Reading Challenge’s coordinator in Mauritania, who recently passed away after a long struggle with his illness. Bin Ahmed helped encourage thousands of students in Mauritania to take up reading as a habit since the launch of the Arab Reading Challenge in 2015.

The biggest Arab Reading Challenge far
The 5th edition of the Arab Reading Challenge is the largest edition to date, drawing a record of 21 million participants from 14 Arab countries and 38 foreign countries with Arab diaspora, representing a 55.5 per cent growth from the previous year’s 13.5 million participants from 49 countries. It attracted 120,000 supervisors from 96,000 schools compared to the previous edition’s 99,000 supervisors from 67,000 schools.

New digital model
The 5th edition of the Arab Reading Challenge saw an effective application of online technologies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that prompted a widespread shift to digital learning. This year’s event introduced the principle of electronic summaries instead of paper passports. Each eligible participant had to read and summarize 50 books in five digital passports (each of which has 10 pages), with each book to be summarized in one page.

Qualifying stages of the challenge were conducted virtually this year at school level, proceeding to the level of the educational district, directorate or governorate, leading up to selecting the top 10 students from each country before filtering down the national winners. The five finalists were selected from the 16 national winners.

Arab Reading Challenge
Held under Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI), the Arab Reading Challenge aims to foster the culture of reading and knowledge acquisition as a well-established practice among school students. Since its launch in 2015, the challenge has been directed towards developing general knowledge among the young generation, reviving the prevalent use of Arabic language and enhancing self-learning skills and analytical, creative and critical thinking.

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