Shaakirah Baki, Grade 8, Islamic College of Brisbane -
I proudly received my award for perfect attendance. Just as I got back to my seat, a mischievous boy in my class entered. Everybody rolled their eyes as a regular routine at his lateness and awful smell of sweat. There was anger in my teacher’s eyes as her hand gestured him to stop. She marched across the classroom with fury, pulling him by the collar of his shirt. The door slammed shut, and my whole class congregated at the window watching her scold the disobedient child.
“Every single day. You’re late every single day!” she remarked. “Why can’t you be a normal child? You come to school late every day, your clothes are all wrinkled and you are always sweaty. And despite all of that, you still fall asleep in class.”
I couldn’t grasp why he was always so late to school, considering he lived three houses away from me. I thought about it for many weeks, while he was receiving detention slips every day, bringing them back the next day without a parent signature. His father passed away a few years ago, but he still had a mum, so I was bewildered as to why the slips weren’t signed.
One night, I was awoken from an unsettling sleep just before dawn. I dragged myself downstairs to get a glass of water. Through my kitchen window, I saw the troublesome boy dressed in his school uniform pacing briskly down the street. Out of curiosity, I put on thongs and trailed him. He was carrying a basket containing newspapers. I observed him as he threw newspapers to the doorsteps of houses. He rode a bicycle rapidly through the streets of our suburb delivering newspapers to every house.
Why was he working this early in the morning? I wondered.
I followed him to his house and caught a glimpse of his living room. I saw him hurriedly preparing breakfast for his little sister and immensely ill looking mum. He had been working for three hours and had come to take care of his mum. All he ate for breakfast was an apple and his clothes were wrinkled. He wiped a bead of sweat off his forehead.
My jaw dropped as I had perceived the truth. He was working to make money for his sick mother and little sister, as he had no father. That explained why he always came late to school fell asleep in class. His clothes were not neat and he was sweaty because of work and running to school.