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School CP - April 2006

Corpun file 17543

Jamaica Gleaner, Kingston, 1 April 2006

Sparing the rod

Hartley Neita

By Hartley Neita


LAST WEEK, and earlier this week, students of a number of secondary high schools were attacking students of other schools, sometimes with knives, in a prelude to the annual Boys and Girls Track and Field Champion-ships. As far as I know they were not attacking the athletes, but were injuring the supporters of other teams. Strange!

I thought it was embarrassing to see the principals and head boys of these schools meeting in public in an effort to diffuse the tensions. To my mind they should have been drilling discipline into the students of their schools from long ago.

Once upon a time, children grew up believing in Santa Claus. They were told if they were naughty Santa would not bring them a present at Christmas. And especially during the month of December they were on their best behaviour.

Once upon a time, too, children grew up believing in God. They were told if they were naughty they would be the guests of Satan in hell. And so they feared God. They obeyed his commandments -- thou shall not kill and thou shall not steal.

As soon as they discovered that Santa Claus was not real they misbehaved Sunday to Saturday, morning through day and through night. Simultaneously, they discovered there was no God. They murdered and they robbed because there was no eternal hell with its fire and brimstone.

Those of my age grew their young years knowing that if we misbehaved, and if we did not practise kindness, were not truthful and were not honest, the leather belts in our fathers' trousers were drawn and we felt its sting on our backs. At school there were a variety of punishments. We would be sent to a corner of the room and made to face the wall for half-an-hour or more. Or we were ordered to stand on the desk.

There was also detention which kept us in school after it was closed officially in the afternoon and ordered to write a sentence, such as "I must respect my teacher", over and over, one hundred times. The leather strap slapping the palms of hands or the buttocks was also a form of punishment.

Another punishment was being sent on the playing field at midday with a bag over one shoulder and a stick with a nail at one end, and being ordered to pick up paper which had been blown by the wind on the field.

Gating was another punishment for boarders at schools. This involved being refused permission to leave the school, sometimes up to one term, to go to the movies, to track and field championships, or to Manning and Sunlight Cup matches.


Headmasters of secondary schools also carried out punishment by giving six of the best with a cane. Our headmaster was an expert. We would pad our bottoms with two or three bathing suits, but he knew where the suits ended and could cane the same spot over and over again.

There was also punishment for adults. Flogging was one of the sentences ordered by judges for praedial larceny and other crimes. No man who was flogged ever returned to his village when he came out of prison.


Good values and attitudes will never be part of the Jamaican society again without the rod and the stick. We must stop sparing the rod at home and at schools. That is where lessons and memory gems are learned. Not by headmasters and head boys shaking hands with their counterparts in public.

Soon we will have these schools signing peace treaties.


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