School Canings – Institutionalised Discipline and Corporal Punishment Part 2

HH continues...
Thursday Night Hit Parade

Last week I described the various levels of punishment with a Private South African Boys Boarding School. This week, I will talk about the infamous Mark system that only fell away when Corporal Punishment within South African Schools was banned in 1994.

As I said last week, you could get a Mark for any minor indiscretion. Most were dished out by the Prefects, although any Matric (Grade 12) Boy could give you a Mark. From memory, most Marks were dished out at one of the three daily Assemblies. We ran a Three Bell System. First Bell was a 5-minute warning, second bell was a 1-minute warning and you had to be in place by the Third Bell. If you were late, you simply received a Mark. If your shoes were not properly polished or you were not properly dressed, or if your hair was not properly brushed or any damn reason they could think of was cause enough to receive a Mark.

You could of course receive Marks for walking on the grass, for not buttoning your jacket properly (Seniors did not need to button their jackets, mid-School only needed to button one button, whilst juniors had to have both buttons done up), for putting your hands in your pockets again seniors were allowed to have both hands in their pockets, mid-School one hand and Juniors no hands in pockets! In the Natal Midlands, it can get cold in winter and it was always a great temptation to put your hands in your pockets and hope that no one was watching. Needless to say, the seniors were highly protective of their privileges and few had any hesitation of awarding Marks to boys they caught with their hands in their pockets or jackets inappropriately buttoned.

All marks were recorded in the Head of Houses’ (Prefect) Mark Book. The tally would be done whilst we were at Prep on a Thursday evening. Just before the final Prep session ended, the four Heads of Hoses would walk around the school advising those who had accumulated more than two Marks during the preceding week that they should report to the Prefects Room at 10.00pm. If you only had one Mark, the slate would be wiped and you could breathe easy until the following week. If you had more than four Marks, you were required to report to the House Master’s Study.

This left you about an hour to contemplate your fate – although we all knew how many Marks we had accumulated and what we were in for on Thursday night. The Head of House was only allowed to use a “Paddle”. Our particular House had a size 14 Army Boot, from which the leather upper had been removed – except for the toecap, which was filled with lead. As you can imagine, this hurt like hell!

Having been informed of our fate, we would trudge up from classroom prep and prepare ourselves for bed. If you were on Hit Parade, you were only allowed to wear your pyjamas – no underwear was allowed. At just before 10.00pm we would make our way down to the Prefect’s room. There was invariably a queue of at least 20 boys waiting to receive their just deserts. The other three Prefects were also usually hanging around outside the room – often mocking those who were standing in line to be punished.

The first boy would enter the room and be instructed to bend over a lounge chair. We would then hear the Head of House take the 4-5 step run and a solid Thwack! The minimum punishment was two strokes and the maximum was four. Two or three strokes was usually enough to raise “ruby drops” and certainly if you received four strokes there would be a good sprinkling of blood. Needless to say, that Army Boot was a most unpleasant experience. And so the Hit Parade would continue, with loud Thwacks resounding through the house. It was pretty much like a public execution – everyone knew exactly when and what was happening.

Almost as daunting was the walk through the crowd outside the door after you had been whacked! The Prefects grinning as you made every effort not to touch your butt until you had escaped to the corridor. Those waiting in line also smiling at your discomfort, but knowing that very shortly they would be suffering similarly. A quick check in the large bathroom mirror to see the “footprints” and to wash off any blood – also to cool your bruised and still stinging bottom in cool water. On entering the Dorm, there would be requests to see the marks, so you would have to bare your bum to the whole dorm.

For most of my first three years at the College, I was a regular attendee at Hit Parade. I certainly think as one gained increasing experience the effects began to diminish. I think there was certainly a case of “leather butt” among the regulars. However, as a Junior it was certainly a terrifying experience. Next time I will tell you what happened when we had more than four Marks in a week.


Uncle Nick said...

I am developing a liking for this series, and not just because I find HH an agreeable cove. It shines a light on a world that no longer exists and I hope that he will keep entertaining and informing us with yet more memories.

bree512 said...

I just want to say, I may not comment all the time, but I am listening very intently. Sometimes there are no words to describe the feelings that are stirred up inside me by reading what is posted on this blog.

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