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SCHOOL CORPORAL PUNISHMENT

Video clips: Malaysia

Schoolboy being caned in corridor (third clip)

With comments by C. Farrell



Four video clips of school canings in Malaysia.

Clip 1 of 4 -- Formal caning of secondary students (1 minute)

This is a bit of a rarity, a quality videoclip of a solemn and serious (if not particularly severe) instance of proper formal corporal punishment. Four senior secondary lads receive one firm stroke each from a expert discipline master who wields a long cane. The posture adopted is the familiar "hands on the desk" one, the stroke accurately targeted to the student's buttocks in each case.

The first recipient, who has removed his wallet from his back pocket and put it on the desk, is being given a talk about discipline before being punished. The master is saying something in Malay to the effect that "this is a reminder to you not to repeat such behaviour in the future". When his stroke finally lands, he reels back in pain and takes a moment to recover. The second student, in a songkok (Muslim hat), shouts out when the cane makes contact but then moves swiftly back towards his seat. The third, after a bit of business about emptying his back pocket, looks as if he is used to it, and gives only a rueful smile as he moves back towards his place. The fourth culprit, another boy wearing a songkok, perhaps a little younger than the others, produces a very audible sharp intake of breath after the impact, and clutches his bottom long and hard as he walks a little unsteadily back. It shows us how even a single stroke of the cane can hurt a bit if delivered with care -- however footling a mere one stroke might seem to those of us who happily went, a few decades ago, to schools where the minimum caning tariff was four strokes per visit to the office, applied rather harder than these. Times and standards change. Incidentally, the legal maximum number of strokes for Malaysian schoolboys at any one caning is now three (cf. six in Singapore, where the British heritage is perhaps in better shape).

Note the calm, matter-of-fact demeanour of the discipline master. When he talks to the students he is not at all angry or hostile. He is just doing his job, supplying them with a punishment that is no doubt an expected part of a clearly-understood structure: you break the rules, you get a sore backside. Much too often it is assumed by people who do not understand these things that administering corporal punishment has something to do with being angry. It should not be so.

All four youths are wearing the standard Malaysian state secondary school uniform of olive-green trousers with white short-sleeved shirt. I think this maybe is not a classroom; it could be part of the school office, with what appears to be a conference table serving as the place of punishment. In the last few frames it appears that the four boys being dealt with may be the only ones present in the room, making this perhaps our first-ever glimpse of "private office caning" as opposed to the sometimes rather less serious classroom canings we have seen in many other clips. But then, if so, who is operating the camera, and why?

HERE IS THE CLIP:


Clip 2 of 4 -- Mass whacking in the school yard (10 seconds)

This clip, from St David High School in Melaka, shows a mass punishment in the school yard. The picture quality is very poor. The boys are seen in rows lying face down on the ground, and a teacher -- allegedly the principal, Mr Chin Kiau, though I have no way of verifying that -- goes along the row of boys with his cane, giving each student one stroke on the backside.

Viewed at a distance, it is hard to tell how effectual this was, but he seems to be going too quickly to be doing it with the care it deserves. My impression is that the strokes are fairly light and that punishment was somewhat symbolic rather than severe.

However, having reached the end of the line of students, it looks as if he is preparing to go around again, telling the boys to stay in position. The clip ends at this point, with the boys who were presumably caned before the clip starts, who had begun to stand up, getting down again for another whack.

The date of this film is unknown, except that it predates 2006. Mr Chin was still the principal of St David in October 2004, according to a web page about the school that has now disappeared.


HERE IS THE CLIP:


Clip 3 of 4 -- One stroke in the corridor (3 seconds)

This is an even shorter clip (only 3 seconds), but it shows a much more mainstream and probably somewhat more seriously meant punishment, albeit not a severe one as it involves only one stroke of the cane. It is from 2006 or slightly earlier. The school is not identified beyond the fact that it is in Malaysia.

The offending boy has evidently been summoned out of his class to be caned in the corridor, where he has been instructed to hold on to the wall in a standing-up position. This appears to be a favoured CP technique in Malaysian schools - compare this 2003 still picture (which could be posed, but I think it might well be real) of a student receiving a caning in the school office while a fellow offender waits his turn, and this similar picture from the same school.

This very short video clip, at any rate, is undoubtedly "the real thing". As the clip starts, the teacher administering the punishment, who is out of view to the right (behind the door, and evidently left-handed), is taking aim. He then pulls the cane back and delivers a moderately solid stroke across the culprit's buttocks. The film goes by so quickly that it is almost impossible to see the cane, but if you look very carefully you can see an effect on the boy's trousers as it lands. In this still frame capture (right) it is just about possible to discern the blur of the thin yellowish cane across the dark trousers seat at the moment of impact.

The student has clearly been told he is only getting one stroke because the instant it has been received he turns round and returns to the class, with the nonchalance that a freshly caned schoolboy always tries to affect.

This version of the clip has been remastered to give the correct aspect ratio.

HERE IS THE CLIP:


Clip 4 of 4 -- Mass public caning of secondary boys (1 minute)

This group punishment apparently takes place in a corner of the school hall, probably during recess when everybody is standing around talking. No great ceremony is made of it and clearly nobody has been compelled to watch: some of the bystanders appear to take no notice of it, suggesting that this is a routine performance. The students being disciplined, eight in all, are in standard Malaysian school uniform and look to be aged about 15 or 16. They are evidently queueing up off-camera to the left. Each one in turn "backs into" an upright position in front of the discipline master, who briefly feels the seat of the offender's trousers with his spare hand to check that there is no padding and nothing in the back pocket. Each boy gets one stroke. The strokes, carefully targeted at the buttocks, are only moderate, with no discernible reaction from the recipients, and there is perhaps a certain sense of "going through the motions". This is a mixed school, with girls visible, but all the culprits here are male.

HERE IS THE CLIP:




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