The lengths of skirts worn by today’s woman cannot simply be categorised as long, short or mini.
On Monday, fashion designer Diana Nekoye of the Simbaress Fashions in Nairobi added to the raging debate of suitable skirts for schoolgirls, saying their age would require that we give the girls “medium” ones.
Ms Nekoye explained that there could be many different lengths, but said a miniskirt would not be appropriate for school girls because they are still in their teens.
“We have to appreciate our culture; we are not used to exposing our legs. I do not think our kids should learn in exposed thighs. Let them wear something that reaches just under their knees. I think that would be suitable for their age,” she told the Nation.
Her comments came soon after Education Minister Mutula Kilonzo on Monday distanced himself from the miniskirts-for-schoolgirls idea, further fuelling the debate on what should be the appropriate length of skirts to be worn by girls in schools.
He denied he suggested miniskirts as uniforms, and threatened to sue any media house that continues to misinterpret his views on the school dress code.
The clerics had on Sunday demanded that the minister resigns for making an immoral comment on school uniforms, and comparing what schoolgirls wear these days to nuns.
Both Muslim and Christian leaders wanted him to apologise for supposedly stating that students should not dress like nuns saying it showed disrespect.
“I was misreported, you have the video clip and in fact if media houses you continue alleging that I mentioned a miniskirt, I am watching you with very sharp lawyers, I will sue you so hard you won’t know what hit you. Take it as a warning, because I never mentioned it nor did I suggest that the morals of our girls be reduced.
“The issue is when you are under discipline in an institution of learning, especially at prime age of primary and high school, you must grow within proper moral ethics which includes dressing,” said Anglican Bishop Stephen Kewasis of the Kitale Diocese at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi, on arrival from Thailand.
Director of Blescohouse Schools, Mrs Catherine Muriuki, also argued that having students wear short-than-normal skirts would lead to increased sexual abuse.
“Trust me, if girls are allowed to wear miniskirts they will be the most endangered species and sexual related problems in schools will be normal just like strikes,” she said in Nakuru during the school annual cultural day at the weekend.
“It’s common knowledge that the eye of a man admires what it has seen and you can imagine what would happened when a male teacher is left with your daughter for more than eight hours and she is in a miniskirt in the class.”
But the minister said he would not quit over something he is wrongly accused of doing. He said the calls were like “whistling in the wind because I would never accept a miniskirt even at the workplace.”
Nuns dress well
“Why should I resign over something I never did? This sort of thing only happens in Kenya where you lynch people. I never mentioned a miniskirt by word or inference and you know for example that even in Mbooni (my constituency) I have got nuns who do wonderful work. They dress extremely well.”
“I simply said that nuns are produced by churches, schools are for producing business elite, the bank managers and so on. So, it is a storm in a tea cup but I am happy also in the sense that everybody now is recognising that education is a topic worth having right at the dinner table in front of the television.”
The issue of skirts came to the fore two weeks ago when more than 400 girls at Rwathia Girls’ Secondary School went on a go-slow demanding shorter and more comfortable skirts. They were eventually suspended for a week.
But they had touched off a spark of the debate that would last longer. The teachers argued that school uniforms pronounced equality among students most of who come from different backgrounds.
The clerics stated that morality in schools would deteriorate if students wore short skirts.
On Monday, Mr Kilonzo told reporters he would display the difference between short, long and miniskirts so the clerics do not misunderstand his views.
“You will be happy to know that Rwathia, the school where the girls were protesting, the issue has now been solved. Probably by the end of the day, I will have the sample of skirt that had been prepared for them and that which they had rejected, and then the bishops can tell me how the new skirt can undermine morality, because it can’t.”
Mr Kilonzo spoke at the start of the two-day National Policy Dialogue Forum organised by his ministry at the Intercontinental Hotel Nairobi.