Tight skirts, loose morals
Posted Tuesday, July 17 2012 at 01:00
Schools, like prisons, are places where “inmates” do their time in uniform.
But students of Rwathia Girls Secondary School in the frosty Kangema area of Murang’a County boycotted classes last week due to, among others, the alleged high-handedness of their deputy head teacher, thinning food rations and the more knotty issue of their new school uniform.
The purple affair, the students complained, was “too long, ugly and not meant for their age”.
To make the uniform more appealing, some are said to have cut the standard-issue skirts to the “desired length”, but the school administration was not amused, leading to a confrontation.
The pursing of lips over these purple skirts got embroidered last Monday when 400 girls bolted home before sun up. But police herded them to a cop station until daybreak. No school property was damaged during the sartorial rebellion.
Schooling sometimes could easily seem to be one long stretch of learning things you don’t give a hoot about, surrounded by classmates you wish you never met, while working toward a future you don’t know will ever come — and in uniform that you can’t give your enemy as a gift.
Here to stay
Whether a school uniform resembles smudged newsprint, is box-printed like a draughts board or its material can be mistaken for that of an umbrella, uniforms, like education, are here to stay.
And the word “uniform” is self-explanatory. It is something worn to train conformity, to indoctrinate the wearer into regimented practice.
That is besides promoting identity, discipline and neatness. It is also a source of pride and visual equality that trims the edges of economic disparities among students who hail from all walks of life.
Students in uniform also profit from reduced bus fare and faster treatment in health facilities.
Uniforms are not mandatory in, mostly, international schools. Like Nairobi’s 65-year old Rosslyn Academy, where students are inspired and equipped to be of “service in the world community”, but first have to plough through the “24 Carnegie units required for graduation”.
Okay, they wear uniforms — for those in the school band — during concerts.
And there are rules: Gentlemen have to dress in black trousers (no denim) and white shirts buttoned down the front.
Polo, golf, team jerseys and T-shirts are a no-no. So are sneakers or shoes with markings. But black dress, socks and shoes will do.
Neckties are of a student’s liking but they’re warned “try not to be so outlandish that everybody is looking at you and not listening” … probably to the adagios and allegros of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Or the oboes and bassoons in Handel’s Music to the Royal Fireworks.
And while Rwathia Girls might be crying over “spilt skirts”, ladies at Rosslyn are only allowed to wear “black mid-length skirts (well below the knees about halfway down the calf when standing), absolutely no patterns or extra colours added. Miniskirts are never accepted.”
According to the school, the reason for the dress code is “establishing uniformity in the appearance of the ensemble… fashion statements are for parties and formal events, not the concert stage.”