25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
When Teachers Used to Lash
I can understand why some children were very reluctant to go to school at age five on their first days of school life. They knew there was lashing at school. I can also understand why some kids grew up with responsibility and respect for authority. There was lashing at school. I can also understand why some kid, who were so unruly and undisciplined and lazy did get to learn and become productive children. There was lashing at school. I can also appreciate why at times parents used to go to school to challenge teachers to a fistfight. It was because there was whipping at school.
At times the lashing used to be imparted with a thick leather belt. This really hurt. Some creative teacher who really wanted the child to feel the whipping used to soak the belt in water so that it got stiff. It hurt a little more. Some teachers used a piece of stick or cane. One principal, Miss Signa Yorke, is said to have used a small paddle to impart her punishment on undisciplined children. However, what was the most dreaded punishment tool was the sash cord. This was a very solid rope used for flag raising and each teacher used to have a piece, perhaps three feet long, on his or her table. At the time of lashing they would double it so you would get a more solid lashing.
Now who used to lash and who were the most dreaded teachers? The principal used to lash and so did all the class teachers. Teachers were asked to use their discretion on who deserved a whipping. The Garifuna or Carib teachers used to really hit hard. We remember Mrs. Martinez or Mr. Agustine. But we also remember Mr. Bernaldo Bey, Mr. John Saldivar, and Mr. Emeldo. Boy did they hit hard. Pupil teachers also used to hit hard. In the late 1950’s our pupil teachers used to be Eloina Cardenez, Gaspar Lara, Leonor Paz and Martita Foreman. One thing I can assure you and that is that Martita used to lash, but never with might and hatred. Some teachers used to whip with full might and terror, so much that students used to be afraid of them.
Exactly what were the reasons for imparting a whipping? You did not know your spelling, you did not learn your nine or twelve times tables. You did not learn your song for Mass on Sunday, you got your mathematics all wrong, or you fought with someone and then cursed the teacher. Whipping was given for practically anything that was wrong. Only at times did teachers put someone to kneel at the corner, hold books up in his hands, or kneel on some bottle stoppers. Most of the time it was a good sound beating. Now I must admit that most of the whipping was justified. The children, including myself, did deserve the lashing. However, the problem was the intensity of the lashing. Some teachers gave you two or three cuts with medium might, but others gave up to six and ten whippings with full might. I mean it was a two hundred pound man who was angry and hitting you because he was angry.
To tell the truth, I could live with the whipping because something wrong was done, but not with a whipping when the teacher was angry. At times they marked your hands or calves for several days. Some kids could not sit properly after a good spanking on the buttocks. Some kids’ hands even bled. Then we had a problem. And believe it or not, parents agreed with the whipping and even encouraged it. Some of them used to send some fish or a chicken to the teacher to thank them for disciplining their children.
I taught at primary school for one year in 1970 when whipping was allowed in the classrooms. I had a small belt called “Tiger Lily”, and the kids were afraid of it even though I did not use it often. I did more counseling and talking, and I had a great class. I am still a close friend of many of those guys in standard three in 1970. I tried to use the belt only when absolutely necessary- when they refused to listen. Today, many believe that children are unruly because whipping is not allowed anymore. One thing is certain in my mind, and it is that children need to respect their teacher and that can be achieved with a whipping or with counseling also. I believe in talking.