Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Young Gaza Scholar in Need of More "Vitamin W"

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Young Gaza Scholar in Need of More "Vitamin W"

Article excerpt

Success to many is an air-conditioned room, an ocean view, and unlimited amenities and possessions. Eighteen-year-old Naim Abu Radi of Gaza, however, has a much more modest vision of success. He lives in a small rundown cottage where his desk is a repurposed child's bed, his light a hodgepodge of broken refrigerator parts, plastic nylon and draped cloth. The front door of his home is made of rusty corrugated metal, with nylon sheeting wrapped around an old TV set box and torn plastic carpeting on the ground. For Abu Radi it's simply a matter of reusing items found outside in a so far unsuccessful attempt to prevent rain from leaking in.

By international standards his home is slightly less luxurious than a chicken coop.

The crowded street in front of his house is full of dusty-faced children from even dustier shacks. Though his home is far from most people's idea of success, it was in the ramshackle cottage that Abu Radi realized his goal of passing his final exam for secondary school-and with the near-perfect score of 99.4 percent.

Smiling broadly, he shows his diploma to the neighbors gathered in front his home. "I want to be the reason for improving the life of my family," he explains to the Washington Report.

Abu Radi is the second oldest of four children, who have all slept in the same room since he was born. The rest of the rooms in the family home are divided among his four uncles and their families. Each family has its own room.

He knows that elsewhere, even as nearby as Tel Aviv, families don't have to live this way. Determined and proud, however, he refuses to ask for help. Only his often tearful prayers to God at the local mosque reveal a hint of his dreams and his predicament.

Abu Radi ranks third among all students in Palestine and second among those in Gaza. That kind of scholastic success would virtually guarantee him a full scholarship to universities all over the world. And he achieved it mired in poverty, living without electricity for much of the day and with none of the conveniences students around the world take for granted.

Mahmoud Al Hassanat, Abu Radi's mathematics teacher, is inspired by his relatively unknown student's dedication, innovation and pioneering spirit. "He is a miracle, very dedicated and hardworking student," says Al Hassanat, who expects a good future for someone so determined and intelligent.

After he was named one of the top 10 students in Palestine last July, government officials called and congratulated Abu Radi and his parents for the young man's extraordinary success. His cottage was filled with officials from the de facto Hamas government and Palestinian Authority (PA) delegates who spoke to the media. Abu Radi was promised scholarships to study in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Yemen and the Czech Republic. But so far none of the promises have been fulfilled.

So the promising scholar remains in his family cottage, unable to improve his family's situation. When he calls the delegate of President Mahmoud Abbas, who initially was so full of congratulations, he is told, "We are busy with other things right now."

His teacher Al Hassanat notes that other students who scored far lower on their exams have managed to obtain scholarships through their connections.

"One who got 60 percent got a scholarship to Yemen, and another to the USA," he says. …

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