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Retired Doctor William Green
Retired Doctor William Green

Before Independence, the colonies of the UK were controlled from England and the Headmasters of the various grammar schools were Englishmen throughout the Caribbean. The Headmaster of the Dominica Grammar School was English.

These gentlemen brought with them the qualities copied from the English public schools like ETON for example, notably discipline, and enforced them on the schools over which they presided.

I entered the DGS in 1940 on a Monday. I was 11 years old. On Thursday was drill. The Cadets went to the Botanical Gardens with a policeman for their drill. The younger boys were to do their drill on the school grounds. We were each given a staff. A roll call was called by the Headmaster. When my name was called, I came to attention to answer my name but unfortunately my staff fell down when I answered my name. The Headmaster said "Green, report to me tomorrow morning."

Some boys near me giggled – apparently they knew the outcome. The next morning after roll call, I knocked on his door. He said "Green, slackness at roll call. Get outside."

That meant go the caning room. I was given four strokes with a tamarind whip on my posterior. Can you believe that? Fancy going to school on a Monday and on Thursday receiving four strokes for slackness. That was how discipline was established.

We were caned frequently for not knowing our homework or not obeying the teachers etc., etc. We were caned if we did not tip our hats to any teacher on the road. Also, the senior boys in Firth Form took turns giving us new boys "calots": that is, slaps at the back of our heads over a water pipe, intoning the words: "I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." This was part of my initiation into the DGS.

I also had to fight with an old boy for two rounds. They put the boxing gloves on us and they picked an old boy who could fight, and then picked a new boy who looked harmless. Needless to say, I received some very good blows for those two rounds! Such was my initiation into the DGS.

My father transferred me to the Antigua Grammar School in 1942. There, discipline was also enforced. The Headmaster, an Englishman, continued the tradition of the English public school system. That is initiation. We new boys had to run the "gauntlet". We had to run between two rows of boys who lined up with their belts. Fancy being hit with a belt on your back as you ran down the line with boys hitting you from either side. This was horrible!

I was told that there used to be another initiation called "scrimmage" which was discontinued as they jumped on a boy's leg and it fractured, so the Headmaster stopped that form of initiation.

These days, there is no longer any form of initiation as we now have our local or Caribbean Headmasters and not Englishmen who wanted to do what was done in England.

I mention all this because today discipline in the form of corporal punishment is more or less obsolete and is no longer practiced as before both at home and at school. Other forms of punishment with the same severity are now meted out for discipline. Children must be disciplined as this is part of growing up, otherwise the phrase "spare the rod and spoil the child" would not have been coined!

The English feel so passionate about discipline that the Duke of Wellington, also a graduate of ETON, who won the war against Napoleon Bonaparte at the battle of Waterloo, remarked that "the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of ETON".

This is certainly food for thought!

To go back to the present situation in Dominica where the boys school results are much lower than the girls, I strongly believe that if punishment is enforced both at home and at school, the results later on will show that the boys grades will be equal to those of the girls.

You, just wait and see!