Charles Tshepo Masango
Albinism is scientifically defined as the congenital absence of the pigment melanin.
Melanin gives skin, hair and eyes their colour.
We are all born in the likeness of God, and are the same and equal in the eyes of God, but people with albinism are often discriminated against.
I am a teenager living with albinism. Life is hard because I am called names like "freak" and "weirdo", and I'm referred to as "it" by my own kind - fellow human beings.
Some of them believe that I am cursed or am suffering from a mysterious disease, and some claim I am carrying evil spirits.
I walk in my community with downcast eyes, feeling bigoted people's eyes boring into me.
Some of them call me other derogatory names, including "umlungu", "inkawu", and "albino".
My heart is filled with sorrow.
Friendships with teenagers with a normal black skin are short-lived.
Some of them are ashamed to be seen with me, others abuse my kindness and others treat me like a leper.
How would you feel, seeing children spit into their clothes, on their chests, when you pass by? When others spit at you? Or cry, or hide when they see you?
I go through that frequently. And yet, like them, I am a normal human being, with only a complexion that is different!
Ignorance about albinism is perpetuated by adults. It rubs off on their children. But, amid all this negativity, I remain humble. I believe that, as human beings, we should live with love, peace, acceptance and togetherness.
I love, wish for peace, and accept other human beings. I am dreaming of a different, beautiful world where I will not be crying and complaining to my mother about the nasty treatment I receive daily.
My mom too is traumatised. She does not show it though.
She thinks it will hurt me. How I wish for a world that would be loving, caring and understanding of us, the people with albinism.
When that happens, I will cry tears of joy.
It has started happening in some quarters, and in other countries it has taken stronger root. South Africa is not far behind.
As a person with albinism, I am an equal, with rights and privileges who should not be discriminated against, misunderstood or isolated.
Albinism is not a disease, but a manageable condition.
Just as a paraplegic is seen as disabled, or physically challenged, a person with albinism is also different but equal - deserving of love, care, understanding, acceptance and tolerance. Just like any other human being.
I need to be accepted as I am!
l The author is a 16-year-old grade 12 pupil at Bonginsimbi Comprehensive School in Emalahleni, Ackerville, in Mpumalanga.
He came fifth in last year's national Schools Essay Competition on Albinism.
The competition is organised and sponsored by Sowetan, the Development Bank of Southern Africa, the Health Department and the Albinism Society of South Africa.
Designed to dispel myths, superstitions and misconceptions about albinism, the competition is a youth-development project of the Aggrey Klaaste Nation Building Foundation.