A tradition from the 1970s...

Most schools signify the start of day with a loud ring of the school bell at the sound of which students walk leisurely walk to their classrooms to await the teachers to begin their lessons.

But at the V.I. the day starts off with a lone imposing figure in a white coat slowly walking towards the boys gathered in front of the library. Word of his sighting soon spreads among the boys and those who are still unaware will learn of his presence soon enough. With a booming voice, that solitary figure shouts the words that strike every Victorian with dread: “BOYS, LINES!”

There is a flurry of activities. All conversations cease; those who are sitting down immediately spring up. Only the thudding footsteps of a couple of hundred rushing boys can be heard. Students caught in the middle of their breakfast at the canteen look back despairingly as they part with their unfinished food and run with the others. Within seconds, the boys have formed two neat lines on either side of the road according to their classes.

The atmosphere is so quiet that one can hear the proverbial pin drop. Now, the lone Prefect will check around, looking for any pieces of trash in the vicinity. Satisfied, he will keep watch over the students while waiting for the other White Coats to arrive. The boys meantime stand at attention with their hands behind their backs. Not one will dare make any sudden move or any noise. To do so will bring the ire of the Prefect upon him. An unfortunate latecomer may occasionally trudge from the gate weighed down by his school bag. If the Prefect judges his speed to be inadequate, he will bark out a directive to the boy to hurry up. For the next few minutes, these two hundred boys will be beholden to this lone Prefect, his authority absolute.

After several minutes, ominous footsteps can be heard echoing from the upper corridor of the main block. Were this not be taking place in a school, they might be mistaken for those of soldiers marching. Rounding the corner on the upper corridor, a formation of five Prefects march into view. They descend the stairs, their footsteps thumping loudly in unison to let everyone know that they mean business. The formation continues past the assembled boys and heads towards their empty classrooms for a quick inspection. Class monitors now look on with dread as they try to remember if they have switched off the lights and fans earlier. If everything is in order after the inspection, the Prefect contingent will march back towards the boys, break formation and assume their positions in front of the boys.

They now begin checking the attire of the boys, scanning each boy thoroughly to make sure everything is perfect. The boy's hair, for example, should not hang below the eyebrows or cover his ears. His school badge must be exactly two fingers above his shirt pocket, his name tag a finger above the badge. The school tie should be of appropriate length and his belt of the right material and colour. Finally, his white shoes must be spotless. Satisfied, the Prefect moves on to the next student and the process begins all over again. It may seem troublesome and time consuming but the Prefects are specially trained for this and work efficiently.

Anyone whose attire is found not up to standard is ordered “to the back”. The boy will fall out of formation and run towards the back to form a new line with other offenders. On some occasions, special announcements are made by the Prefect on duty on the upper corridor. Another Prefect may also keep watch from here for anyone talking or fidgetting. The culprit will be identified with a loud shout from above, "Boy, you, to the back!"

After the Prefects have gone through their rounds, they will dismiss the boys to return to their classes. A collective sigh of relief can usually be heard as the boys quickly gather their belongings and scurry off to class.

And now judgement time for the “backed” ones remaining behind. The Prefects recheck each of them thoroughly. Those with crooked badges or name tags are told to straighten them up. For the more serious offenders, such as those missing a tie or badge, there is further interrogation. Those with valid reasons are given a warning while those with weak excuses are told to do twenty push-ups as punishment. For these boys, twenty push-ups is a pushover compared to the rigorous training they would undergo with uniformed bodies such as the band or the scouts. Nevertheless, it is a token gesture so that the offender will remember his lesson. After all offenders have been dealt with, the Prefects march back in formation towards the Prefect's room. Their duty done, they will head back to their own classes. From start to finish, the whole ritual takes around ten minutes and it will be repeated again later in the day.

“Lines” is an important part of every Victorian's daily life. It is carried out twice a day, once in the morning and again after recess. They are held at the road beside the library for the First and Second Formers, at the quadrangle for Third and Fifth Formers. Fourth Formers gather at the basketball court for the ritual.

To the uninitiated, all this pomp and military-like exercise may seem silly and useless but this is how Victorians have maintained a neat and disciplined appearance. This has built a reputation of the V.I. as a school with gentlemen who are always punctual and dress their best. These traits become more apparent whenever there is a competition or event outside of school where Victorians always stand out because of their good behavior and appearance. Thanks in no small part to the countless “Lines” a typical Victorian has undergone.

Overall, “Lines” has become one of the school's proudest traditions. May it continue for generations to come!

VI The V.I. Web Page

Created: 15 May 2019.
Last update: 15 May 2019.

Contributed by: Johari Idzman (V.I. 2014 - 2018)