Sounds familiar, though it is a story that is not entirely of my telling.

The rule is that when you have been absent from school, you have to bring a letter of excuse. He knows his mother’s standard letter by heart: “Please excuse John’s absence yesterday. He was suffering from a bad cold, and I thought it advisable for him to stay in bed. Yours faithfully.” He hands in these letters, which his mother writes as lies and which are read as lies, with an apprehensive heart.

When at the end of the year he counts the days he has missed, they come to almost one in three. Yet he still comes first in class. The conclusion he draws is that what goes on in the classroom is of no importance. He can always catch up at home. If he had his way, he would stay away from school all year, making an appearance only to write the examinations.

Nothing his teachers say is not already written in the textbook. He does not look down on them for that, nor do the other boys. In fact, he does not like it when, now and then, a teacher’s ignorance is exposed.

Boyhood by J.M. Coetzee, pp. 107 – 108.

About the author

Laremy Lee

A versatile educator, writer and editor, Laremy Lee (李庭辉) has the uncanny knack of being one of the few among his generation in Singapore who crafts compelling stories in different genres.

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