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Video clips: School caning in Malaysia

Schoolboy being caned in street (clip 5)

With comments by C. Farrell

Five video clips of school canings in Malaysia.

Clip 1 of 5 -- Formal caning of secondary students (1 minute)

This is a bit of a rarity, a quality videoclip from 2009 of a solemn and serious instance of proper formal caning. Four secondary lads receive one firm stroke each from an expert discipline master who wields a long, sturdy rattan. The posture adopted is the familiar "hands on the desk" one, the stroke accurately targeted to the student's buttocks in each case.

 The first recipient, who has removed his wallet from his back pocket and put it on the desk, is being given a talk about discipline before being punished. The master is saying something in Malay to the effect that "this is a reminder to you not to repeat such behaviour in the future". When his stroke finally lands, he reels back in pain and takes a moment to recover.

 The second student, in a songkok (Muslim hat), shouts out when the cane makes contact but then moves swiftly back towards his seat. The third, after a bit of business about emptying his back pocket, looks as if he is used to it, and gives only a rueful smile as he moves back towards his place. The fourth culprit, another boy wearing a songkok, perhaps a little younger than the others, produces a very audible sharp intake of breath after the impact, and clutches his bottom long and hard as he walks a little unsteadily back to his place. It shows us how even a single stroke of the cane can hurt a little if delivered with care. Incidentally, the maximum number of strokes for Malaysian schoolboys at any one caning is now three, according to government guidelines.

 Note the calm, matter-of-fact demeanour of the discipline master. When he talks to the students he is not at all angry or hostile. He is just doing his job, supplying them with a punishment that is no doubt an expected part of a clearly-understood structure: you break the rules, you get a sore backside. Much too often it is assumed by people who do not understand these things that administering corporal punishment has something to do with being angry. It should not be so.

 All four youths are wearing the standard Malaysian state secondary school uniform of olive-green trousers with white short-sleeved shirt. I think this maybe is not a classroom; it could be part of the school office, with what appears to be a conference table serving as the place of punishment. In the last few frames it appears that the four boys being dealt with may be the only ones present in the room, making this perhaps our first-ever glimpse of "private office caning" as opposed to the often rather less serious classroom canings we have seen in many other clips. But then, if so, who is operating the camera, and why?


Clip 2 of 5 -- Mass whacking in the school yard (10 seconds)

This clip, from St David High School in Melaka, shows a mass punishment in the school yard. The picture quality is very poor. The boys are seen in rows lying face down on the ground, and a teacher -- allegedly the principal -- goes along the row of boys with his cane, giving each student one stroke on the backside.

 Viewed at a distance, it is hard to tell how effectual this was, but he seems to be going too quickly to be doing it with the care it deserves. My impression is that the strokes are fairly light and that the punishment was somewhat symbolic.

 However, having reached the end of the line of students, it looks as if he is preparing to go around again, telling the boys to stay in position. The clip ends at this point, with the boys who were presumably caned before the clip starts, who had begun to stand up, getting down again for another whack.

 The date of this film is unknown, except that it predates 2006.


Clip 3 of 5 -- One stroke in the corridor (3 seconds)

This is an even shorter clip (only 3 seconds), but it shows a much more mainstream and probably somewhat more seriously meant punishment, albeit not a severe one as it involves only one stroke of the cane. It is from 2006 or slightly earlier. The school is not identified beyond the fact that it is in Malaysia.

 The offending boy has evidently been summoned out of his class to be caned in the corridor, where he has been instructed to hold on to the wall in a standing-up position. This appears to be a favoured CP technique in Malaysian schools - compare this 2003 still picture (which could be posed, but I think it might well be real) of a student receiving a caning in the school office while a fellow offender waits his turn, and this similar picture from the same school.

 This very short video clip, at any rate, is undoubtedly "the real thing". As the clip starts, the teacher administering the punishment, who is out of view to the right (behind the door, and evidently left-handed), is taking aim. He then pulls the cane back and delivers a moderately solid stroke across the culprit's buttocks. The film goes by so quickly that it is almost impossible to see the cane, but if you look very carefully you can see an effect on the boy's trousers as it lands. In this still frame capture (right) it is just about possible to discern the blur of the thin yellowish cane across the dark trousers seat at the moment of impact.

 The second sound heard is the cane landing.

 The student has clearly been told he is only getting one stroke because the instant it has been received he turns round and returns to the class, with the nonchalance that a freshly caned schoolboy always tries to affect.

 This version of the clip has been remastered to give the correct aspect ratio. Since the scene passes so quickly, it has been repeated three times.


Clip 4 of 5 -- Mass public caning of secondary boys (1 minute)

This 2009 group punishment takes place in a corner of the school hall, evidently during recess when everybody is standing around talking. No great ceremony is made of it and clearly nobody has been compelled to watch: some of the bystanders appear to take no notice of it, suggesting that this is a routine performance. The students being disciplined, eight in all, are in standard Malaysian school uniform and look to be aged about 15 or 16. They are evidently queueing up off-camera to the left.

 Each boy in turn "backs into" an upright position in front of the discipline master, who briefly feels the seat of the offender's trousers with his spare hand to check that there is no padding and nothing in the back pocket. Each boy gets one stroke. The strokes, carefully targeted at the buttocks, are only moderate, with no discernible reaction from the recipients, and there is perhaps a certain sense of "going through the motions". This is a mixed school, with girls visible, but all the culprits here are male.


Clip 5 of 5 -- Seven teenagers caned (2 minutes)

We are in George Town, the capital of Penang, in front of the boys' hostel of the Penang Free School, an ancient and famous boys' secondary school which is known to make routine use of corporal punishment. This video, from 2014, appears to confirm anecdotal reports that the warden of the boys' hostel also wields a cane, separately from the school -- though if these are indeed residents of the hostel, one wonders why they are being disciplined outdoors, rather than inside the building.

 The recipients are aged about 15 and all dressed in T-shirt and tracksuit pants, not their school uniform. Since school uniforms are compulsory in Malaysia (except in Form Six), this may suggest that it was not an ordinary school day.

 The culprits come forward in turn from an area out of view to the right of the picture. The first student to appear receives four strokes, although the legal maximum for Malaysian schools is theoretically three. The remaining boys get one, two or three strokes. It is evident that each offender has been told beforehand how many strokes he will receive.

 As is common in Malaysia, the punishment is delivered to the seat of the recipient's trousers with a flexible rattan as he stands up straight facing the wall. Several of the lads are seen to clutch or rub their buttocks in pain. Nevertheless they accept the chastisement without demur, and are clearly familiar with the procedure: each assumes exactly the same position without being told, facing the wall and putting their hands on a wall-mounted red box which looks as if it could be a public telephone.

 The teacher has a colleague to the left of the picture, most of the time out of view, to whom he goes in the middle of the proceedings to get a fresh cane.


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