There are some teachers who you always remember. It might have been the GCSE art teacher who inspired you to follow a creative career path, or the history teacher who made the subject seem fascinating for the first time. Or it could just be the one who took a real interest in how your life was going outside of the classroom.
For one little girl from Brazil, that special educator will likely be Ana Barbara Ferreira. Ferreira, a teacher from Sao Paolo, was dismayed recently when one of her students revealed that a boy in her class had called her afro hair – which she wears in bunches – “ugly”.
Brazil is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world, with mixed race Brazilians (or ‘Pardos’) making up 43% of the country’s population. Despite this, racism towards black and darker-skinned Brazilians remains a serious problem.
“She was pretty sad,” Ferreira says of her student. “In that moment the only thing I could tell her was that she was wonderful and that he didn’t know what he was talking about.”
The following morning, however, Ferreira decided to take a stand. She tied her own hair – which has a similar texture to the bullied girl’s – into two copycat bunches, and strode proudly into school.
“When she saw me, she was running to hug me and say that I was beautiful,” Ferreira says.
“I told her, ‘Today I am beautiful – just like you!’”
Watch: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Cultural Playlist
Ferreira shared her story of solidarity in a Facebook post, which quickly went viral. At the time of writing, it had racked up almost 150,000 likes and over 30,000 shares.
“Your attitude is amazing,” wrote a fellow teacher. “We teachers are examples for these kids. It is not enough to talk of prejudice, we must fight it with noble attitudes, like this… Can you imagine how your attitude reflected positively in her life?”
Another Facebook user wrote simply: “You and your heart are too beautiful.”
What’s that? No, we’re not crying. You’re crying.
Main image: facebook.com/anabarbarafs