Marriage over Education

Today, I walked into my 10th grade English class and went through the ritual of greeting the girls. The whole class simultaneously stood up, recited "Good morning, teacher, How are you? We are fine, thank you," and waited for me to motion for them to sit down. Once they took their seats, I scanned the classroom to see who was absent. (Preface: I refuse to speak Arabic at school, unless speaking with fellow teachers or the principal. With students, I strictly speak in English, which results in somewhat exhausting conversations. Please excuse their horrible grammar.)
Me: "Where is Tahanee?"
Girl in corner: "She absent."
Me: "Is she sick?"
I am given blank stares by the whole class.
Me: "Is she sick?" I follow this with a fake cough and a hand to my forehead that conveys the definition of sick.
Girl in 2nd row: "No. She have ring with boy."
Me: "She got engaged?"
The whole class nods – somehow engaged is a very hard word to remember, but once they hear it, they all know what it means, due to its importance in their lives.
Me: "When?"
Girl in 2nd row: "Yesterday."
Me: "Is she quitting school?"
Blank stares.
Me: "Is she stopping school? Is she absent forever now?"
Nods among girls.
After the lesson, I spoke with my principal. She explained that Tahanee's father had arrived yesterday, announced that his daughter was going to be engaged to his brother's son next Friday and that there was no point in her continuing with school, and subsequently drove his daughter home after she cleared her desk and said goodbye to her classmates, who congratulated her with genuine smiles. I didn't even get to say goodbye to one of my favorite 10th-graders, but I hope that she learns to fall in love with her husband and makes her in-laws proud by bringing many sons and daughters into the world.

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