I’m in the 5th form at a school on a large Caribbean island. I’ve lived here for three years and am one of the few European teenagers I know who go to a local school. My school does have the cane, though it is rarely used. Unfortunately, it was recently used on me. I imagine not many European born teenagers have experienced being caned in 2018.
My father is English, my mother is French. I was raised in France at a British school until we moved here.
I am actually one of those girls who rarely get into trouble, especially at school. One of the reasons, I’m sure, is that, like most schools on the island, the cane is still used as pretty much the ultimate sanction. Any student right up to leaving age (18) can be caned if a teacher feels it’s warranted.
Students can be caned for:
- a) Cheating
- b) Fighting
- c) Swearing or other abusive behaviour towards a teacher
- d) Doing something that does or is likely to cause a danger to themselves or others
- e) Have received multiple detentions and warnings about bad behaviour and you haven’t corrected it.
Canings are rare but they do happen from time to time, perhaps more so with the boys than the girls. Boys are caned across the seat of their trousers; girls are always caned on the weaker or non-writing hand. There are four teachers authorised to cane, two male and two female. Boys are caned by male teachers and girls by female teachers. Neither the head teacher nor parents have to be consulted before a caning.
My problem came about following a game of hockey during one sports period. A girl in my team, who I knew well enough, made a mess of a play and I muttered something unkind, which she heard. We had a bit of a spat then and there in the middle of the pitch before we continued the game.
This wasn’t the first time this girl and I had some sort of a dispute. It’s a bit of a personality thing really, although we had never resorted to fighting or anything like that.
At the end of the game, we all trooped off the pitch and went into the changing room to strip off ready to shower, the shower room being next door. When we were under the showers, I saw this girl talking to several friends and I felt they were talking about me. I overheard them saying something nasty about someone and I really don’t think there’s much doubt it was about me. I admit I said one or two rude words back and somehow I managed to accidentally bump into her.
She said something and then I pushed her. With something like twenty shower heads going, and a lot of girls getting showered, there wasn’t much room, the atmosphere was hot and steamy, and of course the floor was quite slippery. Unfortunately, I pushed her harder than I meant to and she fell on the floor with quite a bang.
Some of the other girls then started chanting something like: “Fight, fight, fight,” and our games teacher came into the room to see what was going on. Her office is close by, so she had to have heard the noise.
Our games teacher is also French, but grew up in the Caribbean. She went to school on the island, then went to college in America and returned home to take up this post at the school. She’s in her late twenties, attractive, hard working, knowledgeable and usually quite friendly. I like her a lot. On this occasion, though, she was clearly not at all happy.
The teacher asked what had happened and a couple of the girl’s friends explained. I knew already that I could be in serious trouble and tried to stay in the background. She looked around for me, saw me, and briefly asked me for my version of events. After a moment’s thought, she sent me back into the changing room to get some clothes on quickly and then said to meet her in the toilets which are along a short corridor.
Several girls later said she mentioned the cane at that point, but if she did then I didn’t hear. Even so, I realised I hadn’t been sent to put clothes on just so she could award me a detention. Because I’d only just got under the shower when the incident happened, and because it was quicker, I didn’t dry myself much and didn’t bother with underwear. I just put my games shorts and T-shirt on, then went as fast as I could into the toilets. The toilets were chosen because it was the only room that could be kept totally private and not within the other girls’ sight.
I’d barely got into the toilets when the games mistress followed me, and she was carrying a cane in her right hand. It was the larger of the two canes she keeps in her office, the other being smaller and for use with the juniors. It was approximately two feet six inches long and maybe just a little thicker than my middle finger.
I’m not sure how experienced the games teacher was when it came to caning girls. I don’t think she does it that often, and it all seemed a bit rushed.
The teacher asked me if I knew fighting meant an automatic caning, and I had to say that I did. She gave me the opportunity of putting my side of the story again, and asked if I had anything else to say in my defence. She particularly asked if I meant to push the other girl, and I replied, honestly, that I had, just not so hard. There wasn’t much else I could say.
Her next words still resonate with me.
“Hold your non-writing hand out straight and try not to move too much. If you move too much then I’ll repeat the stroke. You’re getting five.”
It sent shivers down my spine hearing the sentence so clear, confident and without emotion. Although one of the two female teachers authorised to cane girls, I doubt she’s had a great deal of experience. That wasn’t something that was bothering me at that moment.
I held out my right hand (I’m left handed), palm uppermost, and braced it with my left hand at the wrist. I resolved to hold it steady no matter what, although I looked away so, hopefully, I wouldn’t see the stroke coming and be tempted to pull my hand away.
On the first stroke, I expected it to be louder but it still hurt like nothing I’ve experienced before. It was lethal. By the fifth stroke the quiet gentle swoosh was the most terrifying noise I’ve heard. Looking away helped. I never knew it was coming until the dreaded swoosh, just a split instant before the contact. There was a short pause between strokes, nothing like thirty seconds, maybe ten seconds? I had tears running down my face after the second stroke, and was really bawling by the fifth.
Afterwards, I walked back into the locker room with tears still flowing, stripped off my kit and headed for the showers. Most of the girls were still in the locker room and they all stared at me and passed comments between themselves. Even my best friends asked if it hurt. Durr!
My hand was pretty red and sore for a while afterwards, but the marks were much more subdued the day after. While it was certainly an extremely unpleasant experience, I think having the cane available at school is a good thing and prevents a lot of the problems that seem to plague European schools.