… my siblings are trying to convince my parents that it makes no sense for me to go to school. They laugh that I can’t see anything because of my squint, and that’s why my grades aren’t really good. But do I not have the right for learning? Just because I have a small squint?
Did the mermaid read the letter that the hare wrote to her? Why didn’t he want to go to school? Does professor Grozek think all kids have the same rights? What about the small wolf who came from another forest? You’ll get to know all of this and some more from the fairy tale.
– Rascal, Pola, look what I’ve got!
Their little friend came from behind the bushes. Yes, that must be Tola – only she can shout like that.
– It’s amazing! I’ve found a letter! A letter in a bottle! You need to read it! – she was screamed as she approached them.
The kitten came to her friends. She took out a rolled piece of paper from the bottle she was holding in her paws. She unrolled it and she started reading aloud without waiting for their reaction.
I don’t know if you exist. I like to think you do.
If you do exist, I’d like to tell you about myself. I’m a hare and my name is Steve. I was born as the smallest from all of my brothers and sisters… all of my family is grey, but I have a small white spot on my ear. Because of that spot everyone calls me Eary. Or Squinty, because I squint a little and wear glasses. I don’t like when they call me that. I want them to call me by my name.
This year, I started school. I don’t know if I would still be there when you’ll read it. My siblings are trying to convince my parents that it makes no sense for me to go to school. They laugh that I can’t see anything because of my squint, and that’s why my grades aren’t really good. But do I not have the right for learning? Just because I have a small squint?
I would love it if you could swim here and tell my brothers and all my classmates that my name is Steve and that they can’t call me anything else. When no one calls me names, I’ll sit at the front of the class and I’ll be able to see better. For now, I’m sitting at the back… Maybe then I’ll get better grades and no one will want to take me out of school.
P.S. I’m glad I have someone to write to about my problems.
– Oh no… poor little kid – said the owl. – Someone should help him! And not a mermaid. It’s a pity we don’t know who he is…
– Listen, I think I know who he is! I think it’s the small hare that started going to class with us in spring. You remember, Rascal? I think you played with him…
– Hmm… – Rascal started to think. – Yes, I think we were running around with a small hare once. Boys called him Eary, because he had this cool spot on his ear – he admitted. Then, he got silent and looked down. – I never thought that he might not like it. You know, everyone calls me Rascal instead of Urs. But I really like this nickname! Thanks to this, no one thinks that I could ever help someone or protect anyone. I’m a secret super hero, like Spiderman or Batman – he laughed. – But with Eary, I mean Steve, that’s something different…
– Exactly. Steve should know that everyone has a right to be called their own name. Both at school and at home no one should call him bad names. You know what, I think I haven’t seen him in a while at school. I think he might feel bad because of all the names they called him, and maybe he decided not to come anymore – said Tola with a sad face.
– We can’t leave it like that – said the owl. – I remember where the hare family lives. Let’s go! The mermaid won’t help him, but we can! We need to convince him to come back to us!
The three friends went in the direction the owl pointed them to.
The hares’ house, a small building, was on the side of the clearing. All rooms were under the ground. When the friends approached, Steve’s parents went out to welcome them.
– Good morning – said the friends.
– Good morning! – replied the parents, a bit surprised to see a cat, a dog, and an owl.
– We’ve came to Ear… I mean, Steve – said Rascal.
– To Steve? You? What do you want from our son? He’s not home, he’s helping his grandma in the orchard – said his mom wearily.
– We wanted to ask him when he’ll get back to school. We were worried, he wasn’t there recently…
The parents looked at each other uncertainly. Steve told them he didn’t have any friends at school and now there were three of them asking about him.
– Eary won’t go back to school – Suddenly, Steve’s brother appeared behind his parents. – Our Squinty had bad grades. He can help in the orchard, it will be better for us all, at least he’ll do something useful. At school, he was wasting everybody’s time – he added.
– You’re wasting time at school by being mean to your brother. Everyone’s waiting for him. – Please, tell Steve that tomorrow at 8 we have an English lesson. Steve should be there. He has the right – like every child – to go to school. Don’t forbid him! We’ll be waiting for him tomorrow at 8.
The three friends said goodbye and went back. They talked the whole way home. They couldn’t understand how someone could take away any right from a child.
The next day, for the first time in his life, Rascal was at school before 7am. He really wanted to see if Steven would come. For an hour, he kept sitting down and standing up, again and again, he couldn’t stand still. At 7:30, other students began to come – a woodpecker, a deer, two hedgehogs, a young wolf, and others. Steve and his brother weren’t there, though. At 7:55 came three hares, but the little one wasn’t with them… At last, at 8am sharp, professor Grozek came to the clearing. The class became silent and everyone, save for Rascal, looked at the board.
– Rascal! Stop fidgeting and look at me. The lesson has already begun – said the professor.
Rascal turned reluctantly, he couldn’t focus on the lesson. He held the place next to him for Steve and he was sad that the hare didn’t come. Minutes were passing and the hare wasn’t there… In the middle of the lesson, Rascal was sure that parents didn’t let Steve come to school. And suddenly, he heard a quiet voice somewhere from the back.
– Go-Go-Good morning. I’m so-sorry I’m late – stuttered Steve.
Hooray! It’s Steve. The little hare came to school! – thought Rascal. Before he could react, the professor said:
– Eary! It’s good to see you, but don’t be late next time. Sit down somewhere at the back and don’t disturb anymore, please.
Before the hare could sit down, Rascal lifted his paw. He wanted to say something and he couldn’t wait.
– Rascal? Yes?
– Professor, Steve doesn’t see really well, and he should be sitting at the front. I’ve got a place for him here, can he sit here?
The professor looked at Rascal surprised. Firstly, he didn’t know that the two were friends, and secondly, everyone called the hare ‘Eary’ and he didn’t think the boy could have a different name.
– Okay, you’re right. I see you’re a real president of this class. In each class there should be someone to defend the rights of every student. Steve, come here and sit next to Rascal. You should’ve told me that you can’t see well, I would have told you to sit in the front row
Steve was a bit embarrassed, but he was also relieved. He was happy that someone protected him for the first time in his life.
When he moved, he felt a light poke.
– HHey, Squinty! One eye to Morocco, the other to the Caucasus! Get back home, you’ll only make problems. No one wants you here except for Rascal! – shouted the wolf sitting at the back while throwing a piece of paper at the hare’s head.
The professor noticed it and reacted at once.
– Bart! Apologise, now! Steve has the right to be here, just like you. When you were running away because of the fire in your part of the forest, and you came to our school, the children didn’t want you here either. They were scared and thought you might be dangerous because you’re from a different place. They said that a wolf refugee should stay at home. Remember? What did I say back then?
– Yes, I remember– said the wolf ashamed. – You said that we’re all equal for you. I have the right to be at school, just like a heron or a rook.
– Exactly! Treat others just like you’d like to be treated. We were supposed to talk about something else today, but I see we need to start with this.
Professor Grozek erased the board and wrote with capital letters: CHILDREN’S RIGHTS.
– Every child has rights. You have the right to education, so you can – or even have to – go to school. Nobody can forbid you from coming here. Above that, you have the right to be healthy. If Steve has problems with his eyes, then a doctor should examine him and help. You also have the right for protection of your rights – so a class president, a teacher, or the Children’s Rights Spokesperson should protect you.
The students looked at him, very surprised.
– Oh, I see we need to talk about each of those rights. I want you all, both you Steve, and Bart, to know your rights, and to know who can help you.
– And to know that they can get help from someone who is not a mermaid… – whispered Rascal and smiled, seeing the surprise on Steve’s face.
– I have the right, you have the right, he has the right… – started professor Grozek.
To find out what he said to his students, you’ll need to read the next episode.