Kaffir Boy

Kaffir Boy


Mark Mathabane

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Kaffir Boy: Chapter 26 Summary & Analysis

After Mathabane’s teachers beat him several months in a row, he decides to quit school by being truant for a month, so that he’ll be expelled. Each day he lies to his mother that he’s going to school and then spends the day with the other kids in his gang instead, watching films at the cinema or hanging out in junkyards. However, his mother knows about this and contacts the school. The principal sends his four biggest students to fetch Mathabane. When the rest of his gang sees the four big students, they flee. The older boys catch Mathabane, tie him up with a rope, and carry him back to school. His mother and teachers are there, waiting for him. His mother tells the teachers to whip him good, and Mathabane is bedridden for the next week, recovering from his injuries.
Although violence is most often a negative feature of Mathabane’s life, episodes like this one suggest that sometimes it can be used to an ultimately beneficial effect. If Mathabane’s principal had not sent the boys to hunt Mathabane down, it seems likely that he would’ve successfully dropped out of school and become a tsotsi or another low-skilled, low-paid laborer like his parents. Although grim and severe, the beatings Mathabane receives from his teachers ultimately help him to succeed in life, complicating the ethics of such treatment.
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon