At first I was totally fine with how I looked.
Yes, I was different. But, I was only a child then. Other children would tease me. But I fought back as best as I could. My mother had always told me to.
I was always irritated when I had to wear a hat and put on sunscreen ointment whenever I had to venture outside, particularly when it was hot.
My friends always bragged about being with me. Others wanted to look like me. They all thought I was white.
Oh, the sweet memories of childhood!
How I wish I could turn back the clock to relive it all. Little did I know that all that would soon change the minute I entered high school and became a teenager.
The boys at school never took a second glace at me. I had a crush on a certain boy, but he never bothered to say "Hello".
I remembered when we had to participate in an English oral exercise that had the topic "Am I Beautiful?" When It was my turn, everybody stopped what they were doing and they all stared at me with ugly sneers and naughty smiles.
I said a quiet prayer and stood up. I heard one girl whispering to the others. They were all wondering what I was going to say. I felt like I really wanted to drop dead. Would I freeze and say absolutely nothing? Would I stutter? Or worse, would I cry if someone shouted an insult?
I spoke about personality, my emotions and how fragile I was. I said people always put me down, but I always managed to see beauty in them.
I said I may not look pretty, like them, but what was most important was that I had my most unique beauty, and it was deep within me.
In conclusion I said: "It is because of all these things that I stand here before you all and boldly say "I am beautiful in every way."
I had struck a nerve. Where did my strength come from that day? I got the highest mark. I gained confidence. That was the beginning of my recovery.
Today I am 17 going on 18, doing Grade 10, and I have two great pals. At first I was uncomfortable with my new friends. They kept looking at my eyes, which kept shaking and rolling, like that of a doll. But, now all is well. I am dreaming of becoming a chartered accountant. I am no longer that scared little girl.
lThe author, Sisanda Ngcana, is a Grade 11 pupil at the Khanyisa School for the Visually Impaired at KwaDwesi in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape. She is the 2008 winner of the National Schools Essay Competition on Albinism.