The whole night Monica could not think about anything except the bruising on Tebogo’s neck. They’d been friends since they were in Grade 3. That was before Tebogo’s father died in a mine accident. After her father died, about three years ago, Tebogo stopped inviting Monica to her house. She never spoke about her house or her mother or about anything that happened at home. She only spoke about school and about how one day she’d go to university and she’d make something special of her life.

Still Monica felt she needed to tell someone about what she saw. She thought of telling her parents but she knew they’d blow everything out of proportion. They always did. She just wanted someone to check and make sure Tebogo was okay, that no-one was hurting her. By morning, she decided the best thing to do was to go to Mma Mogomotsi. She trusted her. She knew she’d do the right thing.

She got to school early and was glad to find Mma Mogomotsi already in her class.

“Can I talk to you for a minute Ma’am?”

“Sure, come in Monica. What can I do for you?”

“I think Tebogo has a problem.” Monica explained about the mark on Tebogo’s neck and how she never seemed to get enough food. About how she, Monica, was scared something was going horribly wrong.

Mma Mogomotsi listened and then said, “I’ll speak to her today. Don’t worry. I’ll make sure she gets the help she needs.”

Monica left feeling better. She was sure Mma Mogomotsi would take care of everything.

That day when the English lesson was over, Mma Mogomotsi said, “Tebogo can you remain a minute after class please?”

Monica turned to Tebogo. “I’ll see you later.” She left smiling.

Mma Mogomotsi waited until all of the other students had left and then closed the door and asked Tebogo to sit down at her desk. Mma Mogomotsi sat down at a desk next to her. “Tebogo, I’ve been noticing you seem a bit down. Is something wrong?”

Tebogo was afraid she’d not finished her homework properly. She had struggled to read under the yellow light of the streetlight. Maybe she’d missed something? “Did I do something wrong?”

“No.” Mma Mogomotsi brought her hand forward to stroke Tebogo’s arm to assure her, but Tebogo pulled away. “Is there something wrong at home? Something I can help you with?”

“No, everything’s fine at home. My mother works at the hospital now, as a cleaner. So everything’s fine.” Tebogo stood up. “Can I go? I’ll soon be late for science and Mr Mohammed gets very angry if we’re late.”

Mma Mogomotsi nodded her head. She watched Tebogo leave. She couldn’t just leave it at that, but she didn’t have the authority to do an investigation. Only the headmaster had the authority. She headed for his office.

Mr Sebina sat behind his desk, frowning at some papers. She knocked and he said, “Tsena!” without looking up.

“Mr Sebina, do you have a minute?”

He looked at her as if he was going to say no, but then said, “Okay… but only a minute. I have this form from the Ministry and they want it by the end of the day.”

Mma Mogomotsi quickly explained all she knew about Tebogo. “She’s so quiet and scared all of the time. I think something’s going on.”

“Did you see the bruising on the girl’s neck?”

“No, Monica Olebeng reported it.”

Mr Sebina smiled. “Oh yes, Monica – quite a dramatic girl if I recall.”

“Yes… maybe, but if you’re trying to say she’s making it up, I don’t think so.”

“I know you care a great deal about your students and this is a good thing. I know Tebogo – she’s just a quiet girl who likes to keep her business to herself. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s none of our business. If there’s a problem I’m sure the social workers who are trained in such things will uncover it.”

Mma Mogomotsi left the office. She felt like she’d let Tebogo down when she needed her most.

***

Tell us what you think: Should Mr Sebina be saying, “It’s none of our business”? Should it be his business?