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School CP - June 2003

Corpun file 11417


The Star, Kuala Lumpur, 15 June 2003

Dealing with indiscipline

Advice, counsel and warnings are the first measures a school takes in tackling cases of indiscipline. No longer quick to wield the cane or punish in manner to cause embarrassment, the school authority uses persuasion rather than force.

"The Education Ministry has drawn up strict guidelines on ways of dealing with discipline problems," says a ministry official.

"No action should be taken without prior investigation of the matter. Public humiliation of the student and violent forms of punishments should be avoided," he adds.

At the same time, schools have been warned against sweeping serious offences under the carpet in an attempt to protect its image. Their students' welfare must come before their reputation. A circular dated Sept 3, 1996, states that school authorities must not turn a blind eye towards students' wrongdoings.

Schoolboy being caned in the office

PAINFUL PUNISHMENT: Apart from counselling, school authorities still resorts [sic] to caning as a form of discipline.

"There were reports of samsengs who were let off easily, resulting in students being further tormented by these bullies.

"These students will eventually lose trust in the school and its teachers and this will not help promote good morals, attitude and discipline among these students," says the officer.

To prevent bullying, the ministry recommends that schools organise more extracurricular activities, frequently update school rules and regulations,and introduce a "mentor-mentee" system. It is also encouraged to hold counselling programmes and seminars for parents and students as well as organise school trips or camps.

A teacher with over 20 years' experience who has served in both boys' and girls' schools, Salmah Ali, says it is not easy to deal with delinquency.

"We usually counsel the student involved and issue a first warning. Expulsion is often the very last resort and even then the education department will ask us not to do so and to give the student another chance," she says.

Salmah who is currently a discipline teacher at a girls' school, says even when a student is expelled, the delinquent can appeal against the decision.

"Sometimes she is sent to another school and that school will complain that it is not a dumping ground for problem students.

"Other times, the student ends up in the same school, and the whole cycle is repeated. Worse still, the student will tell you to your face that you can't get rid of her because the ministry has sent her back. The problem becomes exacerbated because she is not afraid to go back to her old ways," she says.

Although it is important for the school head to mete out punishment based on official guidelines (see accompanying box), they have the authority to use their own judgement.

Schools are also required to keep a record of each student's misbehaviour, attendance, and the type of punishment meted out.

Shares Salmah, most schools already have a merit or demerit system in place. "Usually a student starts with a certain number of points, for example 60. Merit points are issued for 100% attendance, punctuality, cleanliness, etc., while demerit points may be deducted for being untidy and having coloured hair, long finger nails, being truant, spitting, being rude to teachers, fighting, quarrelling, threatening other students, smoking or destroying school property."

The school will usually reward the students with the most merit points while those whose points fall below a certain level, will have to make up for it by doing other activities.

"This system is used as an instrument to control students," she adds.

Serious offences

Action to be taken: caning (3-7 times), suspend, expel


-- repeats a moderate wrongdoing for the third time
-- causes or starts a fight
-- fights back, punches or threatens, or injures teacher/prefect/student
-- is rude towards teacher/prefect/student
-- extorts from teacher/prefect/student
-- brings/uses weapons or dangerous tools
-- is involved in an illegal group
-- uses bad or obscene language
-- steals, robs, or breaks into prohibited areas
-- vandalises school property
-- uses explosives

Moderate offences

Action to be taken: advice/counselling, warning/fine, caning (not exceeding twice)


-- repeats light wrongdoing more than three times
-- is involved in truancy
-- adopts extreme hair fashion, or hair colouring
-- has more than one pierced earring on each side of the ear
-- lies, copies school work, show untrustworthy behaviour

Light offences

Action to be taken: advice, warning, fine


-- keeps a moustache, or beard
-- has long hair (for boys)
-- disturbs class/teacher
-- does not wear school uniform properly
-- is late for school

© 1995-2002 Star Publications (Malaysia) Bhd (Co No 10894-D)

Corpun file 11419


The Star, Kuala Lumpur, 15 June 2003

Behold the bully

LEADING a group of students who call themselves the 21 Apacheam, Rajendran says his gang fights to uphold their own dignity and popularity among girls.

"It's our way of proving our strength and that we are not afraid of anything.

"Most of the time, I give in to my anger and especially when girls are watching, I want to prove to them that I'm the tough guy."

His enemy is the 18 Bob Marley, led by Subramaniam, his childhood friend from Sungai Buloh. Stepping into Form One changed their lives, and their friendship.

"The groups existed long ago; we became friends with the members and later joined them. Unfortunately, we ended up in different groups, so now we can no longer be friends," says Subramaniam, adding that the groups even have their own emblem and flag.

For the 15-year-olds, getting themselves caught and suspended is very common for the school bullies.

"I've been caught 10 out of 15 times and suspended twice since Form One," says Rajendran.

Bullies use bricks, bottles, screwdrivers, sticks, knives, and even chairs from the classroom to hurt their victims. Others resort to money extortion.

"All it takes is for the person to tease me, or my way of walking, or my group, and I will teach him a lesson," asserts Subramaniam.

Among the most sensitive teases are those involving their parents or calling each other "gay".

Where do their bullying tactics come from?

Subramaniam says: "I learnt it from watching TV, especially my favourite World Wrestling Federation programme every Thursday."

The school fights last for about 10 minutes and usually takes place in the canteen or at the bus stop.

The boys, who both enjoy playing football in the evenings, say they really want to change and be good students but are unable to control their emotions.

Do such "brave" lads fear anything at all?

"My father, because if I'm caught by the school authorities and they notify him, I will definitely get whacked at home, 10 times worse than the caning in school," says Rajendran.

Subramaniam agrees: "I get kicked out of the house for about an hour, but if I cry loudly, my mother will take me in within five minutes."

What do they think about girl bullies?

"They are really hard core gangsters using sticks and they make their victims bleed. Most of the bullies are Form Two students," says Subramaniam.

* All names have been changed.

© 1995-2002 Star Publications (Malaysia) Bhd (Co No 10894-D)

Corpun file 12501


New Straits Times, Kuala Lumpur, 22 June 2003

We're given three strokes of the cane for beating up the teacher

By Syed Alwi

I REMEMBER ... The punishment I get for fighting with a teacher at Clifford School on Empire Day 1949 during a sports meet I go to watch with three friends, schoolmates Arshad Kamaruddin and Harbajan Singh and ex-schoolmate Hasbullah Saikh.

Cikgu Mustapha is in charge of Scouts serving free bottled drinks in a pavilion to athletes and senior pupils. I go inside and get a bottle, finish the drink and return the bottle. Cikgu Mustapha orders me to remove someone else's empty bottle then, without much ado, he slaps me hard on the face.

The four of us talk about it and agree that Cikgu Mustapha must pay for the wrong he did. Hasbullah calls him out of the pavilion, and we have a fight with him in the midst of the crowd until some people separate us.

The night after the fight, some close friends -- but not from the school -- decide to teach Cikgu Mustapha a lesson for being kurang ajar (insolent), an outsider slapping a local boy. He is from another town and my father is Kuala Kangsar-born.

Without Arshad and I knowing it, they go to his house but he is not at home. They then search for him all night but cannot find him. He must have sensed that he has to hide that night. We are told he would have been limp or broken in several places if they had found him.

My relatives in Sayong hear about the fight and the next day some of them decide to teach Cikgu Mustapha too. They take a sampan to cross the river and land near the open market in the town. By sheer coincidence my eldest brother, Abang Mat, has just arrived there from Parit Buntar where he works in the district office.

Abang Mat asks the eldest uncle where they are going with their sticks and one or two parangs. The uncle tells him about my fight and that they are going to get Cikgu Mustapha. Abang Mat advises them to go home and leave the matter to the school to settle it. They heed his advice and return home.

The uncle tells me later, "If Mat had not stopped us, I don't think Cikgu Mustapha can teach anymore."

But the matter is not left entirely to the school.

Arshad's father, Pak Yeop Kamaruddin, is told about the fight by his friend Pak Hashim the next morning, and they decide to "save" us.

Without telling anybody they go to see Cikgu Mustapha. They appeal and plead with him to think of our future, and they manage to get him to pardon us and to speak to the headmaster to be lenient with us.

To pardon us, Arshad and I must go to his house and kiss his hand. We get a shock when Pak Yeop tells us this. We are not forced to do it but it's for our schooling, our future.

After having grown up and finding our way through the Japanese Occupation we are not worried about the future and think we can handle it somehow, with or without schooling. But how to refuse two grand old men for their good and sincere efforts.

Reluctantly, we go to Cikgu Mustapha's house to be pardoned; him seated on a lounge chair with Pak Yeop and Pak Hashim on the side. First me and then Arshad go kneeling before him and kissing his hand with two elders as witnesses.

How terrible and shameful we feel; the only consolation is we get to see the number of bumps from our hits on his face.

The Empire Day is during school holidays. When school reopens, Cikgu Mustapha, Arshad and I are the focus of attention. Everyone knows about the fight. I remember feeling very self-conscious but thankfully no one comes to ask about it. They only look at us, some with smiles.

At school assembly before class, straightaway Mr F.H. Jones, the headmaster, mentions there has been a fight between two pupils and a teacher during Empire Day Sports and says pupils fighting a teacher is the worse crime in a school and would be punished. After the assembly, Arshad and I are called to see the headmaster separately.

Harbajan is not called perhaps because he says he held Cikgu Mustapha to separate him in order to break up the fight. In effect, his hold made Cikgu Mustapha incapable of defending himself and we could hit him freely.

Hasbullah cannot be called because he is no longer in school but a soldier in the British Army in Singapore.

Arshad goes in first. When he comes out he tells me that Mr Jones is angry with him because it is not his fight and he shouldn't have interfered. His punishment is three strokes of the cane on the backside.

But there is no show of anger from Mr Jones towards me; also no lecture, no admonition. He calmly tells me I've done something wrong, then asks me to bend over. I also get three strokes on the backside.

I don't know if Cikgu Mustapha has spoken of his pardon when he is called by Mr Jones who gives him a "big scolding" and the pardon is taken into account. Or if Mr Jones is generous and compassionate in his administration of justice and punishment of pupils who have faced the outrages of the Japanese war and occupation.

Mr Jones calls no meeting with other teachers to discuss the matter. I'm told the decision is all his own and he has three options at hand -- to dismiss us, to take away scholarships or grants, or to cane us.

The first option is out of the question; he can't deprive us of our education. The second is not feasible, I've a scholarship but Arshad is a paying pupil. So it's the third, caning.

Not long after the caning, the headmaster calls Arshad into his office again, in fact twice, to ask him if he has sent a threatening letter to Cikgu Mustapha. Arshad knows nothing about it, neither do I but I'm not called by the headmaster.

That is the last of the matter with Cikgu Mustapha which lingers in my mind as long as I remember Clifford School.

* Syed Alwi is involved in local theatre as a playwright and director, and a national artist. (Copyright 2003)

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