Two strokes of the rotan for each subject that you failed


Last night brought back memories from 1974. I was in form two in SDAR, one of the premier boarding schools back then. Let me digress a little. I believe it is still the only school in the country that had the honour of using Dato Abdul Razak, our second Premier, as a school name. Notice that it is “Dato” not Datok, Datuk or Dato’. It was unique. It was before the late Tun Razak was bestowed with a Tun. In 1974, we had a new Principal to replace Syed Jaafar. He really made an impression to me on the first day he arrived. Our class was next to the staircase going up to the office. I still remember my classmate, Rosli who was sitting next to the door, was playfully leaning back on his chair, tilting the chair on two legs. A few moments later was still a blur, but I remember, seeing this big man in cream pants, shining white leather shoes, maroon shirt long sleeve shirt, big face with equally big frame spectacles, hair parted to the left, was holding Rosli by the throat and two quick slaps left him in a daze. We were horrified and you can here the fan turning as everyone was dazefully quiet. This man screamed at Rosli for trying to destroy the chair – a public property. Later I understood what he meant. If you sit on a chair using only two legs instead of all four, there is every likelyhood the chair’s leg would break. Of course it happened all the time in all boys schools like SDAR. But the impression that this man made on us was really scary. This is really a no nonsense guy who suffer no fools. Later we discovered that was his trademark. Two lempangs, one of the left with the palm and the other on the right with the back hand. Then only he will tell you what is your offence, be it shirt not fully buttoned up, not givingway, not saying good morning (those days, the term “selamat sejahtera” was unheard of), your hair too long, shirt not tucked in properly or anything that he considered an offence. Fortunately I never had the the chance to sample his trademark slaps but I had the honour of tasting his other methods of disciplines and extracting best performance.  After every examinations he would go round to every class (form two and above) with his beloved rotan. Those who failed important subjects like BM, Maths and Science would received two strokes of the rotan for each subject that you failed. I was never really good in Maths, and it was thought in English. I came from an ulu school (it was so ulu even the name already an indication how ulu it was – SK Ulu Kuang), English was never spoken anywhere except in English language class. Even then, the teacher had to explain things to us in BM. Not unlike the current students who are learning Maths and Science in English. Anyway, for that year, our  maths teacher, Mrs Teh or Mak Teh we called her was on maternity leave. She was also on maternity leave the year before. A really “productive” teacher this Mak Teh. So you see my maths achievement was nothing to be proud of. The passing mark was 40, I only managed to scrape with 38. Pleading with Mak Teh for that two extra marks was a fruitless exercise. Back to this Principal, he would arrived unannounced wielding his rotan, carrying the report card for the class. He would then called us out to the front one by one and whacked us according to the number of subjects that we failed. Two lashes for each subject. In  those days, being caned for something is really nothing, I was just slightly embarassed. We had it all the times even back home my parents would whacked us for any transgression of the rules. So it was not so bad. Hands on the table, upper body lean forward, he would asked ” Ada penyakit terkejut?”, “sakit jantung?”  before swinging the cane. It was over in less than half a minute. Of course it was painful. He had to be quick because he had many more classes to go. My clever friend made sure he wore double underwear all days that week anticipating the whacking season would reach our class that week. He was smiling afterwards. Of course I never failed maths again after that and ended up being a Physics and Maths teacher later down the road. And of course I never resort to that trick to motivate my students no matter how I longed to do it, but how times have changed.

So last night, after 30 years (I left the school in 1978) I came face to face with Cikgu Abd Rahman Yeop once again. Now a Datuk, still with big spectacles, hair parted to the left. But he was without his trademark cream trousers, white leather shoes and maroon shirt. And obviously did not remember me but he remembered Ahmad Shabery ( well maybe because he is the Information minister now and man of the hour that night). I happily shook his hands and forever grateful for the two lashes that made me strived to learn maths more dilligently

Mind you, apart from the usual public caning during school assemblies, Cikgu Rahman Yeop had a unique way of doing public caning. You see, all the rooms in the school including the hostels and the labs had this built in speaker system wired to the principal’s room for convenience of making sure all announcements can be heard at every nook and cranny of the school. So if you are caught with one of those major offences like smoking, stealing, or skipping classes or panjat pagar (now they called it ‘fly’) you ‘ll be caned in his room with the microphone on and placed strategically next to your bums. Prior to being caned you had to announced your name, class, offence and say your repentence. The whacking sounds would soon riverbrate throughout the school. It was what I  called a dignified public caning because people can only hear you but cannot see you while you are being caned.

I wonder how would the parents react if any of the principals in todays schools resort to such tactics. One thing I am sure, lawyers and the media would have a field day.  To Cikgu Rahman, it is good to see you again sir after all these years. Now being a teacher myself, I wonder how he managed to control those 700 boisterous boys from all the states in he country plus those 60+ teachers, 40+ workers with various backgrounds. As Tan Sri ISa Samad, only two groups of people would never be jealous of your successes; one is your parents, the other is your teachers. We salute you sir. Thank you for everything. Quoting Spider said in Salut; “Sama lu gua salut, lu memang hero.”


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