This week, on RendleshamRadio.com we spoke to Mel about her idyllic childhood in Singapore. She lived an incredibly privileged life and didn’t have a care in the world. Until, at the age of eight, she was sent to a boarding school in England which had just opened its doors to girls.
Is there ever a right time to send a child away?
We think it heart-breaking to hear of stories of children put into care from a young age yet sending a child to boarding school is considered a privilege and one they should be thankful for. Therefore, many children don’t feel able to tell their parents how unhappy they are. Or even if they do, they are considered ungrateful since most families couldn’t dream of having such a privileged life.
Corporal Punishment was banned in state schools in 1986. Way later than many people realise. It wasn’t banned in private schools until 1999. It is still legal in 69 countries around the world. During our time in Egypt we spoke to our guide and he had put his son in what he considered the best local school in the area. However, it did mean he’d had to sign a document agreeing to his son receiving corporal punishment but still believed this was the best place for his son to be.
Does it Severe the Link With The Parents?
For Mel her experience meant it was incredibly hard to trust people. Up until the age of eight she’d had an idyllic childhood but then was sent to a place she describes as “a very expensive prison.” The portfolio displayed beautiful grounds a fantastic building but “that means very little when you’re eight”. She goes onto explain how, “you’re told to be grateful for this privilege.” Children are “severed from their emotions because it’s a cold place. Showing emotions is positively discouraged.” Even though she enjoyed her time back home during the holidays it became harder and harder to adjust knowing she was returning to school at the end of the holidays.
The Making Of Them – Nick Duffell
In Nick Duffell’s thought-provoking book the author reveals the bewildering dilemmas confronting the boarding school child. Personally, I have met very few adults who have come away unscathed from their time at boarding school. Duffell talks about children developing a ‘Strategic Survival Personality’ in order to cope with their loss of family and adapt to their new environment. He also discovered that the phrase ‘Boarding School Survivor’ is entering our language. A quick look on FB shows you how common this is with not just groups for the survivors but also the partners of the survivors. The word survivor is also very poignant since many, especially boys, do go onto commit suicide.
Breaking Their Souls
There is so much sadness in this book but what is also worrying is that these schools are essentially very good at breaking the soul of a child. They are then able to go onto disconnect them from essential feelings such as empathy and compassion. The top schools are feeders for our political systems begging the question: who on earth is running our country and do they have the necessary skills to do so?
Many struggle in relationships because of the guard they have around them. They believe that being a success is the most important thing so they follow career paths that lack any inner joy or creativity. They do however, keep them connected with the ‘right sort of people’.
Our Own Experience
My husband boarded for three years. The school was up the road from where he lives and for years he believed he chose to board. The problem was that he never chose the school in the first place. He was very happy at the local primary school across the road from his house, with all his local friends. The first day at his private school he threw up and even before he was boarding he had received his first beating at the hands of a an incredibly brutal man. Once at the school day boys were referred to as ‘gay boys’ so it was actively encouraged to board. Many believed they were ‘missing out’ if they didn’t board. How about missing out on family time, getting to know their siblings at home and their parents? That seems to be a given with the emphasis on all the facilities the school has to offer. He knows of three people he went to school with who killed themselves in their 30s/40s. He also knows of three of his teachers who are now in prison for various degrees of child abuse inflicted on their pupils whilst he was there.
George Orwell’s ‘Such, Such, Were the Joys’
In George Orwell’s essay of this title he talks about the headmaster’s wife, who everyone referred to as Flip, pointing to him and saying, ‘Here is a little boy,’ said Flip, indicating me to the strange lady, ‘who wets his bed every night. Do you know what I am going to do if you wet your bed again?’ she added, turning to me, ‘I am going to get the Sixth Form to beat you’.
Needless to say with a threat like that hanging over him he did proceed to wet the bed again. After the initial beating he came out and said to another boy that it hadn’t hurt. Flip overheard him and send him back in for another beating.
“He continued for a length of time that frightened and astonished me — about five minutes, it seemed — ending up by breaking the riding-crop. The bone handle went flying across the room.”
Talking to Mel is an important reminder not to judge people just because of their accent. Of course, this goes for any accent. We need to connect to people not judge them by what we initially see or hear.
Not All Boarding Schools are Bad
Just like everything in life there is a huge range of what is on offer and we aren’t saying that every child has had a horrific experience if they went to boarding school. There are some very progressive boarding schools like SummerHill in Leiston, Suffolk. Our friend chose to go there when she was 12 and loved every minute of it.
All we are trying to do here is show how we mustn’t judge people by the way the speak or if we assume they come from a wealthy background. We are all unique and everyone’s path is different. It’s having empathy for those who had a different one to our own that’s important.
Our YouTube Channel
We now have our YouTube Channels on our website. Venetia R-Campbell hosts our Joinavision Meets Channel. You’ll find a number of interesting interviews with Joinavision members.
We have created another one where we upload any relevant videos from what we’re currently up to.
Myself and Kazia talking at The Freemind Festival this year.
We continue to fill stalls for our Christmas event. Spaces are going quickly so be sure to book your space. We have some great workshops this time that will keep all the family occupied – dance, arts and crafts, movement. There’s something for everyone.
The room behind the stage will be used for the children so you can enjoy some time in the main area but know there is plenty for you all to participate in too.