Syrian refugee gets top exam scores, with help from Donald Duck


A 12-year-old Syrian refugee who arrived in the Netherlands three-and-a-half years ago and learned Dutch with the help of Donald Duck magazines has won the maximum score in his Cito tests, reports the AD.

Mrwan Alsamawi, who wants to go to the Hague’s prestigious Gymnasium Haganum and eventually study medicine, scored the highest-possible result of 550 points.

He already spoke good English in November 2013 when he, his mother and two younger brothers joined his father, who had sought asylum in the Netherlands.

The boy joined De Spiegel school in The Hague, was rapidly promoted from group four to group five, and attributes his mastery of Dutch to twice-weekly lessons from 68-year-old volunteer Bep van Vliet…and the popular, Dutch Donald Duck magazine.

Donald Duck

“She brought Donald Duck [magazines] with her,” he told the AD. “She explained every world that I did not understand to me.” She and her sister also arranged for a weekly delivery of Donald Duck magazine to their house.

Van Vliet also coached Mrwan’s mother, 35-year-old Maisaa Almohamad to pass her Dutch proficiency exams. Almohamad was a mathematics teacher in Damascus and would like to take up her old profession.

Her son continued to study using the internet to find difficult Dutch words, and reading the dictionary.

School full

Mrwan had received a recommendation from his school to go to a less academic secondary school, based on his year six results, so the only way to go to the higher school was a maximum score on his final Cito test.

But, the AD says, although he would now qualify for the Gymnasium, the school is full, so he hopes to switch after his first year.

“I want to study medicine [and] become a doctor, because I would like to help people,” he told the paper, adding that he also wanted to make his football club’s team. “My main goal is to reach the top.”