The power of persistence: on World Refugee Day, a Palestine refugee from Jordan proves that obstacles can be overcome

24 August 2022
Wajeeh Mohammad Ghabayen is a fifth grade student at the UNRWA Awjan Preparatory Boys’ School in Jordan. © 2022 UNRWA Photo

“I believe in the power of persistence to overcome obstacles,” says young Palestine refugee student Wajeeh Mohammad Ghabayen. An 11-year-old, he is a fifth-grade student at the UNRWA Awajan Preparatory Boys’ School in Jordan. “I trained all the time to get ready to win in this competition. I was stressed and afraid that I wasn’t going to make it, but I won! I’m happy and proud of myself,” Wajeeh says.

Of some 5,000 competitors, Wajeeh won third place in the Worldwide Mental Arithmetic Competition. Held in Egypt on 1-2 June 2022, he competed against participants from 22 countries from the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe.

“He was only four-years-old when I noticed this obsession with numbers,” says Wajeeh’s mother Maram Al Jamal. She recalls, “He used to hold a calculator and start pressing buttons randomly. When he wasfive, he started to successfully do simple mental math! I knew then that my son was talented and that I needed to develop his extraordinary skills.”

Maram enrolled Wajeeh in the competition only 10 days before it started! “It was a challenging decision for both, Wajeeh and me but we decided that we’d do it together. It wasn’t an easy period; I needed to dedicate all my time to support him, to help him prepare to answer tens of mathematical problems in just 10 minutes,” says Maram. “One day, Wajeeh told me that he wanted to drop out. When I asked him why, he said he was afraid of failure and didn’t want to disappoint his father and me.”

From that moment on, Maram shifted her goal from winning the competition to teaching her son an important life lesson: believing in the power of persistence. “Life is like a math problem. We solve our problems on a daily basis in order to survive these challenging times,” Maram explains.

Eventually, and with the support of his family, school and teachers, Wajeeh was able to solve hundreds of math problems and and place third in the 2022 Mental Arithmetic Competition!

“I thank everyone, especially my mother, who supported and helped me to believe in the power of persistence to overcome obstacles,” Wajeeh concludes.

UNRWA is proud to serve Palestine refugee students like Wajeeh who strive to hone their skills and develop their talents. From our more than 700 schools across the Middle East, some 530,000 UNRWA students work to achieve their dreams despite their challenging circumstances.