10.

THE MISSING PENCIL CASE

One Monday morning, Asma sat behind her desk in school and searched her schoolbag for her pencil case. She couldn’t find it, so she emptied out her bag and searched again but to no avail. Her pencil case was really missing. “Someone must have stolen it,” she said to herself.

Asma had come early to school that morning. She had left her bag in the classroom and then went out to play with her friends, until the school bell rang. The only person in the classroom at that time had been Radhiyah. Radhiyah was poor and did not have a fancy pencil case and bag. She always admired Asma’s things as her parents could not afford such luxuries. Asma thought to herself, ‘It must have been Radhiyah. She’s the one who stole it.’

While the teacher wrote on the chalkboard, Asma confronted Radhiyah who was sitting in front of her. She tapped Radhiyah on the shoulder and hissed, “Where’s my pencil case? Give it back to me now!” Radhiyah had no idea what Asma was talking about. “How should I know where your pencil case is?” she asked. “You know because you stole it!” accused Asma. “You were the only one in the classroom this morning and now my pencil case is missing, from my bag. I want it back now!”

“I didn’t take it,” Radhiyah protested but Asma wouldn’t listen. The teacher overheard the girls and enquired into the matter. Though Radhiyah willingly emptied her school bag to show everyone that the pencil case was not in there, all the children looked at her suspiciously. The teacher told them that since there was absolutely no proof that Radhiyah had taken it, she shouldn’t be accused or held responsible. The children however, blamed Radhiyah for the missing pencil case and kept on calling her a thief.

Asma kept telling her that if she didn’t return back the pencil case, she would have to buy her a new one. Radhiyah was so miserable and in tears but nothing that she said would convince the children that she hadn’t stolen it.

Asma went home angry that afternoon. She still hadn’t gotten back her pencil case and had needed to borrow her friend’s pencil and pen. She was eager to tell her mother about the pencil case as soon as she got home. She greeted her mother but before she could tell her anything, her mother remarked, “You forgot your pencil case at home today!”

“What? Are you sure?” she asked, suddenly feeling sick in her stomach. “Yes,” her mother answered, “I found it in your room this morning.” Asma felt terrible. She and her friends had been so nasty to Radhiyah all day, yet she hadn’t done anything wrong. They had accused her without a reason or any proof. Now Asma would have to let everyone know that Radhiyah was innocent. It would be very embarrassing to admit to everyone that she had actually been the one at fault.

The next day, Asma announced to the class that her pencil case had been found at home. Asma and her friends apologised to Radhiyah for blaming her and asked her to forgive them. Radhiyah forgave them and accepted the apology. The children though, felt very foolish for the previous day’s behaviour. Each one of them imagined how they would have felt had it been them wrongly accused. All of them had indeed learnt an important lesson from this.

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