“Don’t judge a book by its cover, see a
man by his cloth, as there is often a good
deal of solid worth
and superior skill underneath a
jacket and yaller pants.”

16 January 2016, was my first day of high school. As I was walking to my new class, I bumped into a group of boys who were standing in front of the door. Well, I was thinking about being kind and saying “Hi,” but Themba, the group leader did not give me a chance. He started to call me rude names.

He said, “Welcome to high school, Miss Ugly Big Shoes.”

I was really hurt and little did I know that the water was going to carry on boiling between us. I went inside and people started laughing at me. I already had a horrible nickname on the first day of school. I soon realised that name-calling was part of the class culture and I just needed to get used to it – name-calling was just the culture of that class and was about to get used to it.

Themba called me names because I was seen as being lame. When I stood up on my way out of the classroom he said, “Hey guys, look at her shoes!” He then asked me what size shoe I wore and when I replied that I was a size 8, the whole class erupted into laughter. That moment was the start of the worst phase of my life.

I started to feel like I was different to everyone else, as if I was an alien being demolished by humans. I reached up to rub the back of my neck and hung my head down for a moment so that I was able to wipe away the tears before they could roll down my cheeks. I couldn’t believe that my peers wanted to cause me so much pain.

When I arrived home after school I had suicidal thoughts, but I told myself that I wouldn’t do it just because I was being mocked. The next day at school was better because people seemed to have calmed down, although there were still some people who were gossiping about me.

Soon things started to get worse, but my English teacher, Miss Shabalala came to my rescue. She was beautiful and I wished that I were more like her. Maybe if I were more like her, then Themba would like me. I wondered why I was treated this way, but the other girls were complimented. These were the thoughts that were going through my mind. I am not shy, I am just self-contained – these are my personality traits.

Miss Shabalala told us all to write a short speech about how we were finding high school so far. I was happy about this because I love public speaking and writing. I also wanted to show Themba and the rest of the class what I was capable of. I chose to name my speech ‘Never judge a book by its cover’.

I was looking forward to seeing the facial expressions that the whole class would have after I had given a good speech. When it was my turn I stood up with confidence and gave a speech that left Themba embarrassed and the rest of the class astonished.

At the moment I am writing and am in Grade 11. I have certificates and trophies for being confident and for ‘good fellowship’. Themba learnt to respect the cliché of never judging a book by its cover and I learnt that beauty is not skin deep.