After hearing about a man who is subjected to 50 lashes per week for about 10 weeks. Reflectively, I recalled a school ‘strap lash’ for lateness and disruption. I beg any still surviving ‘colonial teachers’ to offer me an explanation ….as I outlined my tale…...
The morning school timetable was over. My brother and I walked home to lunch, for the usual ‘fish broth’ with hopefully a few small thin dumplings. I recall the walk on the grass verge to avoid the heat of the road. According to the patois speaking busy body neighbour, Gran had gone to the bank in ‘town’ and was delayed. My brother and I waited a while – well what seem like a while to a six and a half year old – then the cockerel did his midday doodle doo! The neighbour had nothing to offer us, and we were instructed by her to drink some water and go back to school. Silently, my brother and I started the walk back, on the way we saw Gran. Gran hurried us back to the house, where with great haste, made some lime juice, the sugar granules did not even have time to dissolve, we gulped it down, and left the house with a couple of crackers each, and Gran fretting over her late arrival, and the children having to return to school with no lunch!
On arrival back at school, to the total silence where one could have heard a pin drop. I walked into my Deputy Head class, and my silent presence interrupted the after lunch Dictation lesson. On the contrary, the Dictation lesson was one of my favourite lessons – it was basically just carefully listening to the teacher voice, writing putting in the necessary punctuation marks and remembering the spelling of the words that will crop up prior to the lunch break and at times his voice was interrupted by the chorus of a few birds in the nearby trees – he made allowances, by repeating the sentence once more only.
He stopped the dictating. He called me to the front of the class. No questions were asked by this expressionless faced Deputy Head. He moved to his wooden table with an array of neatly piled Oxford dictionaries, a pencil sharpener, pencils, rubber, colouring pencils, some coloured chalks, a pile of new blue exercise books. My eyes were always fixed on the colouring pencils; I just loved them and wanted to own some in the same clear plastic case.
He picked up a coiled dark brown buckleless ‘strap’, and gave me an instruction: Put out your hand. I obeyed; I put out my right hand. He lifted his arm upwards, and as his arm came downwards, I pulled back my hand. The strap slapped against his thigh. This was repeated twice, still in the silence of the rows of silent pupils – with not even a gasp from the rows of children behind me.. At the third requested instruction, his lifted his arm upwards, and become I could blink, the strap went across my left shoulder. The stinging, the pain….. the tears welling up to my eyes amidst a slight inner gasped. Only to be given a final instruction, any noise, the ‘strap’ which was now recoiled and replaced on the wooden table, will be used again. In the silence, I held my breath and miraculously found my wooden chair, as he went round to collect the exercise books for marking.
Even to this day, the tears can easily well up in my ears, when I think about that ‘missed dictation lesson ‘afternoon, resulting in that ‘strap lash’ with the tropical heat adding to the manmade penetration of skin heat.
But, I survived the scholarly ‘scholarship class’ punishment of ‘one lash’ for ‘interruption’ – due to a late return.
Years down the line, after more reflection, on this ‘one lash’ it never dawned on me, until yesterday, that my elder brother was not ‘strapped’ by whoever his teacher was!
Furthermore, if there are any folks who are familiar with the ‘ten to one is murder’ school chant let me know! And, folks let me have - your succinct take!
Folks hold your breath, for I hope to continue with this story.....in a future Part 2.