By Humaira Ahad
Joy and jubilation were in the air as a stream of guests walked inside the home of Al-Shaima Akram Saidam to congratulate her on a commendable feat – topping the school examinations.
Saidam, from northern Gaza, scored 99.6 percent marks in this year’s annual secondary school examination announced in July, earning the first position throughout the besieged coastal strip.
In interviews with local media outlets, who queued up outside her home in northern Gaza, the Palestinian schoolgirl spoke exuberantly of her big dreams, hopes, and ambitions.
Saidam also spoke about the painstaking efforts and hard work she put in for the highly competitive examinations, which eventually delivered results as she stood first in the Gaza Strip.
Pertinently, more than 40 percent of Gaza’s 2.2 million population comprises children.
“Getting this achievement was not easy, it was very difficult,” she said in one of her interviews.
“I used to say, ‘I hope I just pass,’ but I [reached] this average, thank God.”
A proud Palestinian, the teenager sported a Palestinian keffiyeh around her neck as local media persons clicked photos and shot videos to publish them with the interviews.
“When I saw my grade, I was truly surprised and was very happy. Hard work had paid off,” she said.
Her father, in an interview with a local Palestinian media outlet after the results were announced in July, said difficult living conditions did not affect her performance or dampen her spirit.
“The issue of electricity is not new to us, it has always been like this,” he said at the time. “There are alternatives such as batteries; there are alternatives today, thank God.”
Saidam had already made plans for the future. She wanted to be a translator. She wanted to join the Islamic University of Gaza and enroll for a degree in English- Arabic translation.
The university was blown up in an Israeli airstrike days after the bombardment began on October 7.
On October 15, amid the Israeli regime’s indiscriminate bombings in Gaza, Saidam and many other members of her family were also killed. She was silenced and her dreams were shattered.
According to Gaza-based Quds TV, they were killed in Israeli air strikes on the Al Nuseirat refugee camp, five kilometers northeast of the city of Deir al-Balah in central Gaza.
The refugee camp is home to thousands of displaced Palestinians, including those displaced since October 7 when the Israeli regime launched the indiscriminate aerial blitz on northern Gaza.
The aftermath of the bombing showed flattened buildings and corpses lying all around the camp.
This was the place where the teenager and her pregnant mother had sought refuge after the Zionist regime launched attacks on the civilian population in Gaza following the Al-Aqsa Storm operation.
Saidam and her family did not realize that the refugee camp would be targeted as well.
The attack on the Al Nuseirat refugee camp was followed by back-to-back strikes on the Jabalia refugee camp, the largest camp for refugees in the northern Gaza Strip.
The death toll in the Gaza Strip has already risen above 9,500, most of them children and women.
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