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By Zephaniah - Founder, Zephaniah Free Academy, Pakistan

Rizwan is a 15 year-old boy and is in 8th standard; he has been my student for the last six years.

He is very sensitive and intelligent – he takes part in every activity, and he is an intelligent boy in my school.

He is very short in height for his age, so of course other children make fun of him. When a child taunts him due to his height, I always feel that the light in his eyes goes off immediately; he laughs to make others feel that he does not care for that, but his eyes tell the whole story of his broken heart.

Sometimes in this situation, when he looks at me, I feel he is asking me, is this his fault? He did not want to be short; he wanted to be taller, like other boys of his age.

It hurts me so much; I planned for many days to resolve this issue, and took some initiatives as I knew it could create an inferiority complex in him and it could ruin his personality forever.

So I started telling him about his good deeds and good habits.

I tried to encourage him among the other children who have been teasing him.

I told him and other children that height, color, features, and family background do not matter – it cannot get us respect in society. That the basic thing is our education; it is our actions that make our world a peaceful land. If we all will support each other and if we all will encourage each other, our world will be a beautiful place to live in and anyone who will make it such a world - we will never forget that person.

Since that day I felt a very positive change in him and in other children.

One day I told the boys:

“Learn to respect girls and to love children, so when you all go to your homes from school, wait until all girls are gone. Always try to open door for them, always speak politely to them, never hurt them. It will make you decent and you will be considered more respectable among them.”

The last day when I saw Rizwan, he was standing in a corner to wait for girls to leave first and in the end, he would go himself. I felt so much love for him – he looked very cute to me.

One year ago, when he was 14 years-old, I called his mother one day to my home, and asked her to bring the boy to the doctor and discuss about his physical growth. I did not tell Rizwan about this meeting because I did not want to make him feel that his growth is a serious matter.

His mother said to me, ok she will go; but later, she told many women in the village and told my mother that, “Your daughter thinks that we do not give good food to our children.”

She said she knows what to do and no one else needs to give her wisdom.

It made me feel hurt because I just wanted to see Rizwan a happy and a confident boy. And I think he must have a problem – that’s why his physical growth is not good enough, and this complex can affect his whole life in future.

Why did his mother not understand what I said?

Because she is an illiterate woman.

I know what she said about me; it was not her fault because it was not easy for her to understand what I said. I cannot say this to her again.

I do not want her to turn against me and to ask her son to stop coming to my school for studies; otherwise again he will have to go to the same atmosphere in any other school, where his schoolmates will break his self-respect for his short height.

And then we say girls do not need to be educated?

If that mother had been educated, it would have been easier for her to understand what I said... because education gives us awareness and knowledge to know what is right and what is wrong.

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Disclaimer: Views here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent an official standpoint of Safe World for Women, as an organisation.