It was A’shadieeyah first day at a new school in Pakistan, and she was very excited but a little afraid of being bullied in the new surroundings. She had been living all her life in Africa, but recently, her family had decided to move to Pakistan.

A’shadieeyah was very good in studies and she always scored well. Her behaviour and conduct was also better than that of many other kids of her age. However, according to the worldly standards, she had a dark complexion, therefore, sometimes A’shadieeyah felt a little conscious of her appearance.

So on her first day, she walked through the corridor of the school bit nervous. A teacher showed her the way to her classroom. There, she was asked to give a brief introduction of herself in front of the class.

“Hi! My name’s A’shadieeyah, and you can call me Diya! I have moved here from Africa, and I hope we can get along nicely!”

However, no one gave her a good response and also nobody wanted to share their desk with her either. The teacher, Miss Aishah, noticed this and told the class monitor to share a seat with Diya. She was a little reluctant, but she gave Diya some space to sit beside her.

Diya remained bright and cheerful during the class. She wore a smile and tried to forget about the cold response she had gotten. Soon, it was recess. Diya took out her lunch-box from her bag and moved to the cafeteria. But this time too, nobody welcomed her. Diya eventually found an isolated corner and sat there, sadly stuffing her lunch in her mouth.

In just a short while, Diya noticed three girls coming towards her. She was overjoyed! Not everyone in this school was mean! But Alas! When the girls came, they spoke rudely and none of them behaved in a friendly manner. All they wanted was to inquire about her background and her academics.

Before they depart, one of the girls asked, “Hey, you should drink more milk. It will make your skin fairer.”

The three girls started laughing as Diya sobbed softly.

The girls were being watched by Miss Aishah and a senior student all along. After this, the two gave the bullies after-school detention, while consoling Diya. The entire scenario was narrated to the headmistress, because it was a serious behaviour issue that was not tolerated by the school.

Kids with this mindset can become bullies if they think they are different from others, be it their complexion, status, ethnicity or even religion. Therefore, the principal thought to address the whole school. The next day, after the assembly, she addressed the students: “Dear students, I have come to know that some of you think they are superior to their mates. May I know what makes you think that way? Is it your education, status, your ethnicity or your complexion?”

There was a silence. The girls who passed the comment realised it was indirectly pointed to them. They were embarrassed.

The principal, with a stern expression, started again, “So those who think their status or physical features are better than that of others, let me tell you one thing, whatever you have is given to you by God, and He has created all of us equal and beautiful. No matter how thin or fat; fair or dark or what gender they belong to, everyone is equal. You have no right to degrade another person on the basis of their features, race, status, or even their religion.

“I and all the teachers here are degree holders, should we take you all inferior for you are all in your initial grades and we have studied far more than you? Should we act proud? And behave rudely with and taunt you?”

“You are getting education here, therefore, you must show through your manners, thinking and behaviour that you are educated. Be good citizens not just for today, but forever. No one is inferior to you.

“I hope you all will give yourselves some time to think of what I said and develop a positive mindset. Remember kids, from now onwards, any act of bullying reported in this school will not be tolerated and the person will be strictly penalised.”

The speech by the headmistress made a difference and the kids realised the importance of being kind and fair to others.

Published in Dawn, Young World, December 25th, 2021

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