South African School Canings – Institutionalised Discipline and Corporal Punishment Part 1

HH wrote a couple of articles about his own experiences during his school days. As he stated in his email, there is a lot of interest in the corporal punishment history of South African schools, however, over time all type of myths and legends were attributed to the subject. Here is his account on what really happened during his school days

My high school years were spent at one of the leading Natal Boarding Schools. Regular canings and beatings were part and parcel of growing up in such an institution. Having had firsthand experience, at the hands of many Masters and Prefects in the School, I thought it might be interesting to Raven’s Readers to gain an understanding of what really went down.

I will start off by describing some of the misbehaviours for which we were flogged and caned. Then I will chat about some of the memorable canings I experienced. There is a great deal of material, so we will spread this over a number of weeks.

I will not embellish or exaggerate what went on. Some of it is pretty horrific and certainly very petty. However, it is what happened. This was the model upon which the school – and many other elite Private Schools – ran. It was a tough place in which to grow up. I do not think it left many mental scars on any of us, but certainly created a lifelong interest in spanking for me. I do think, however, that my interest started long before I went to Boarding School, but that is another story.

What were we beaten for?

Well pretty much anything could earn you a flogging! They were certainly not shy about dishing it out. Certainly, a glance around the communal showers would reveal ample evidence of this fact! 

There were actually a number of “judicial systems” in place. If one starts at the bottom – no pun intended – there was the “Mark” system that was under the Prefect’s control. This system was used to manage the boys’ behaviour within the Boarding Houses. For any misdemeanour, you would get a Mark. Two Marks in a week meant that you would be summoned to the Prefect’s Room on a Thursday night for a whacking.

You could get Marks for pretty much anything – being late for assembly (3 times a day), dirty shoes, incorrect uniform, cheeking seniors, failing to complete fagging duties (these ranged from warming the prefects toilet seats in the morning, to making toast and coffee for them, cleaning their rooms and making their beds etc. etc.) to having untidy lockers etc. Needless to say, it was hard as a Junior to avoid getting at least a couple of Marks a week.

The next level of Justice was meted out by the House Master and other Masters within the House. Any violation of the myriad of House Rules would result in an immediate caning. The normal Masters were limited to 4 strokes, whilst the House Master could give up to 6 strokes. I cannot recall a single instance where less than the minimum was ever given. I also recall that when we were caught by the normal Masters within the House and were told to report to the House Master, we would often plead with him to cane us himself as the House Master was particularly feared.

Some of the infractions for which the House Master and his deputies would cane us included: not being in the House during stipulated times, talking after lights out, fooling around in the dining hall, being late back from Exit Weekends, bunking lessons or sport practice, talking during prep periods and back chat! There were probably dozens of other reasons we were caned, these were just a few that I recall.

The next minefield we had to negotiate was the classrooms and the teachers running the academic side of the School. Similar to the hierarchy within the Boarding Houses, the Junior Masters were allowed to give us 4 strokes, whilst the Senior Masters were allowed to give us up to 6 strokes. All the usual misdemeanours qualified for a caning – being late for class, talking when we should not be, fooling around and not completing homework.

A rather unusual one was with a legendary Science Teacher. If you failed to achieve 80% in any class test, you would be caned. His philosophy was rather simple. If you did not understand something, you had to put up your hand and advise him of that fact. If no hands were raised, he assumed that everyone understood the subject matter. If we did not get 80%, it could only mean that we had not studied and were, therefore, being punished for laziness! It must be said that almost all these punishments happened on the spot in front of the class.

Finally, there were “Capital Punishments”. These were for more serious offences and were usually administered by the Deputy Headmaster. He was allowed to give up to 8 strokes and invariably used a very heavy cane. Bunking out, smoking, repeated offences in the School, failing to greet adults on Campus were just some of the offences that would see you bent over in front of the Deputy Head. An experience most of us sought to avoid.

So when I say that you did not have to try very hard to get yourself beaten, I am in no way exaggerating! There were certainly a couple of “goody goodies” that seldom landed in trouble. For the rest of us there was seldom a week that went by without someone taking a swing at your bottom.

I do need to stress that we all knew the rules and it was possible, but difficult, to avoid breaking them. We were a group of high-spirited young boys who, for the most part, had little fear of pushing the boundaries. When you were caught, you knew exactly what were going to be the consequences. Therefore, the system was tough but fair. I can never remember anyone saying that they had been unfairly beaten.

Something else that I need to clarify is that we were never beaten on the bare. At times, it was close, but we never had to expose ourselves fully.

Next time I will tell you about the Mark system and Thursday night “Hit Parade”.


scarlet said...

My teachers were so kind!They had the patience of a saint. So, I cannot share my experiences with you.

Thank you for sharing.

bree512 said...

Loving the recounting of "those good old school days". The boys had all the fun. Hmmmmpphhh! Can't wait to read more.


Raven Red said...


Kind, patient and saintly is NOT describing my high school years...oh...you are talking about the teachers! (GRIN)



Raven Red said...


They still do have ALL the fun. And then they get unreasonable, grumpy and have itchy hands when I want to have fun...

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