Many people who return to Sibu for a visit after a break of many years cannot find the "Old Methodist Primary School" at Island Road any more due to the latest re-development of the property (from 2007 onwards).
This Hoover Memorial Building or the Methodist Primary school block was put up by the funds raised in honour of the American Missionary Rev James Hoover who gave 35 years of his life to the development of Sibu. Nowadays the Hoover Square standing here is built to comemorate his service to the community.
My siblings and I went to this school so did 90% of my peers.
We have such good memories of the primary school and the teachers.
(Photo courtesy of Annette Teng - 2006)
Today I will write about the school punishments the teachers dealt out and what I saw as a primary school student here which left a big imprint in my mind. No offence to any of my former teachers.
There were several punishments from the Headmaster.
He had five or six rattan canes lovingly displayed on the wall in his office at the top of the stair case.
Whenever a student needed a telling off he would call the child to his office and asked him/her to choose the cane for caning on the legs or hand. I was caned for making four mistakes (it was the continuous tense ). 4 strokes of rattan on the left hand in front of the class. I did not cry and later did not dare go home . My Grand Aunt (Goo Poh) had to take me home in case my mother would beat me up the second time. I was embarrassed for many years!! But thanks to the HM I never made a single grammatical error after that.
Students who came late had to kneel on the rough cement floor in front of the whole class. That was painful because it could an hour or more. Scrapping of the knees was an issue but the shame was too great to bear.
Other teachers meted out simpler punishments.
Standing up was a really common punishment for pupils who forgot to bring their books and we were not allowed to look sides ways or move our bodies. We had to look at the teacher only.
Standing on a chair for a whole period in the class was not uncommon. Usually boys received this punishment for pulling girls' hair or skirts (only with evidence or caught red handed).
Standing outside the classroom was a really bad punishement and we girls were terrified of the punishments. For boys it was ok because they did not have to sit in the dull classroom. But parents got to see this and they gossiped.
One punishment that I did not like to see was boys who had to stand on one leg. The poor scrawny looking boys looked so fatigued after standing on one skinny leg for probably long hours. When they lost their balance the teacher would hit them with a wooden ruler on the knee cap.
Writing lines ("I must remember to do my homework") 500 times or more was common. We would tie two pencils together so that we could write two lines at the same time.
A very terrible and traumatic incident happened one day in our Primary Five class. One mother was asked to come to see the Headmaster one morning because her son was to be suspended. After the interview with the Headmaster she came into our class and she hit her son with a stick until he was cornered and brutally beaten by her. In Cantonese she said "You useless son...you must die today !! How can you shame me...You are shameless.." The teacher did not make a move. Finally the boy was able to run away from the school. He did not come back to school for a long time after that. I believe one missionary went to get him back. He later became a police man!! However I think he was never a Christian. The mother must have beaten him more because she lost face. It was as if by beating him she gained face!!
But the worst one was the day when one small girl was asked to stand on her table and after a while she needed to go to the toilet. The teacher thought that she was lying. Well she wetted her pants and the table..and then the floor. There was a commotion and the girl never came back to school again after that.
We did not have the merit system or any award system then. We did not even get book prizes . When we passed our Primary Six Entrance Examination we found that it was just an ordinary day. No fire crackers were let off. No special lunch was given. May be we were just very ordinary hardworking Foochows in those days and we did not know how to celebrate like today's kids and teachers.
May be these were the reasons why so many pupils dropped out of school. School fees then were $3.00 per month. And later we started paying a small building fee per year.
But in spite of all these we had a very good primary school education and we continued to have a lot of respect and love for our dedicated teachers. I still go an hug my Primary Two Form teacher whenever I see her in Sibu.
Punishments have changed over the years because of advancement in educational and psychological research.
However I would to remind all my friends and all my younger generations to come that punishment is often dealt out with love and for you own good...always forgive the ones who punish you and you will be at peace with yourself and the world. Go out into the world that you have been burnished like raw gold or raw silver and you have a new shine in your body. Bear the burden. Love the scar. Gain your dignity. Be at peace with God. And all is right.