Despite countless obstacles and barriers standing in the way of everyday life, we see regular cases of achievement and success that testify to the strong will of the Palestinian people.
The latest inspiring story comes straight from Malaysia’s biannual Intelligent Mental-Arithmetic Competition, a major international program bringing together many of the world’s top young minds.
14-year-old Areej El-Madhoun from the Jabalya Refugee Camp in the Gaza Strip outmatched 2,500 other competitors and took first place in the competition.
The aim of the program is to highlight the importance of mental arithmetic in order to stimulate both sides of the brain, to improve students’ capacities to focus and learn in school, and to encourage greater self-confidence, according to managing director Sam Tai. Promoting mental math allows students to solve problems faster and with more accuracy.
Using the techniques taught to her, Areej was able to outperform thousands of students from at least ten different countries. She solved 182 complex math problems in only eight minutes.
UNRWA first broke news of Areej’s achievement one week ago. In an interview with the young talent, she revealed how important this win means to her.
“Winning the first prize is a victory for Palestine,” said Areej. “I was very proud to carry my country’s flag.”
The competition took place less than a month after Israel’s latest invasion of the Gaza Strip that killed dozens of Palestinians and severely damaged the territory’s infrastructure. Commonly, many children at Areej’s age experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or some other form of psychological stress as a result of the regular shelling and intolerable siege conditions they are forced to face.
“I went through some difficult times before the competition,” she said, briefly recounting her experience under attack. But Areej didn’t let any of that get in her way.
The Palestine team brought home a great amount of hardware. Four other Palestinian youth came in top places in the competition. Others also brought back trophies and medals.