In an inspired gesture, a teacher in Iran shaved his head to show solidarity with a bullied pupil who had mysteriously gone bald; led by his example, the entire class have done the same. Ali Mohammadian, 45, who works at the Sheikh Shaltoot, an elementary school in Marivan, had noticed that his 8-year-old pupil, Mahan Rahimi, had lost his smile. His class performance was suffering and the boy appeared to have been isolated from his peers. It wasn’t known what exactly was wrong with Mahan, but all his hair had fallen out.
Concerned about his student, Mohammadian wanted to get him “back on track,” but he wasn’t sure how. That’s when he came up with the idea of shaving his own head. “Our heads are sensitive to hair,” he wrote on his Facebook page, and he posted a picture of himself with Mahan, both with gleaming hairless domes.
The teacher was shocked when he logged onto his Facebook account only the following day to find he had gained a massive amount of likes and shares from followers in Iran. The story took off from there. The Iranian media got hold of it and sent camera crews to the school. The popular Iranian online news site Paysh named him “hero of the week.” Ali Mohammadian was invited to Tehran for an official thank you from the Education Minister; and the Prime Minister, President Hassan Rouhani, has publicly praised him.
Inspired by their teacher, all 23 pupils in this class in Iran decided to shave their heads too. Mohammadian cautioned them not to, at least before the worst of the cold winter weather was over, but when he got back from his ministerial appointment in Tehran, he found his classroom full of bald children.
“Mahan and I are allergic to winter,” the teacher had told his class. “That’s why our hair falls out.” He assured them it would grow back in the spring. It was seeing his kind teacher with a bald head like his own that made Mahan smile for the first time in months.
The attention that the radical anti-bullying measure has caused is great news for Mahan. Not only does he have his smile back and the support and friendship of his classmates, but steps have been taken to get to the bottom of his mystery ailment. Doctors in Tehran have pinpointed some sort of immune system malfunction, and now samples have been sent to Germany for further analysis. The government have said they will pay for all future medical treatment.
Mr. Mohammadian has three children of his own, a boy and two girls, and he is delighted that his actions have brought about such a positive result, as well as touching the hearts of so many. He still worries about the suffering of countless children in the world – child labor in Pakistan and India; children dying in Syria, Iraq and the Sudan – and hates to think of these “horrific ordeals” they face. By his stance in his own small classroom, however, he has shown once again that one man can make a difference.
This hairless hero, with his gentle gesture of compassion, could possibly soon be honored by appearing on Iranian Kurdistan postage stamps, alongside Mahan, the pupil he put back on track.
Not content with helping to save one child, Mohammadian has called for all the sick pupils in Iran to receive support. Kurdistan province is crippled by poverty; and Mahan’s father, a mechanic, has been unable to afford medical bills or the cost of transport to better hospitals.
This inspirational Iranian teacher, who went bald to save his student, has taught an incredibly valuable lesson to the whole of his class – the value of empathy.
By Kate Henderson