from school?" the Whirlwind asked me.
"No," I told her and wondered what was behind the question. There is no chance of her truanting because she boards during the week. I never had the opportunity to truant either. My parents would have noticed immediately if I was missing. They went to work in the same place for most of my school life.
"B....." she told me, naming a girl in her class, "Is going to truant a whole term. Her parents are taking her back to India. Are the others back yet?"
She indicated the neighbour's house. I told her the father was. The mother and the two children will be in Hungary for another two months yet. The elder boy is missing an entire term of school here.
"He will have to do heaps of work to catch up," the Whirlwind said. Missing school bothers her. She is worried she might miss out on learning something vital.
It does not seem to bother many other students nearly as much. In the last two years of secondary school here the local state high school students are not required to be on school premises unless they have lessons to attend. Rather than get on with their work as is intended many of them head off to the closest shopping centre. There they "hang out" and spend apparently endless pocket money on chips, sushi, icecream and soft drinks. Some of them drive their cars the short distance - cars packed with other teens.
They do not see themselves as truanting and technically they are not - but they are in another way. They are supposed to be working, not playing.
I pointed out to the Whirlwind that B.... will not really be truanting. Her parents, both doctors, are going back for a purpose. I know because I have had some input into the project they are working on. They will see to it that B.... has work from her school here and that she and her three brothers will also see as much of Indian life and culture as they can. It will be a marvellous experience for them - and they will undoubtedly come back appreciating life with a reliable electricity supply and clean running water.
The older child from next door will also come back speaking passable Hungarian. He has spent time there before and his father says he quickly picked up what he had known before and has added to it. If his mother has her way he will probably go on with at least the spoken language here. He is a very bright child and any other work will, at his age, be quickly made up. He is also learning many other things while he is away.
It seems to me there is a vast difference between absence from school and truancy. Absence from school, unless one is too ill to learn, can be educational. Truancy is not.