DADDY DIARIES: The school uniform headache

Wednesday March 18 2020

As the bus pulls away, his little hand waves me bye from the window, unaware that four essential Wednesday items are missing in his bag; a towel, lotion, spare boxers and a swimming costume. ILLUSTRATION| IGAH


It is Wednesday morning and I am preparing my boy for school. That devil prevailed upon me to snooze on the alarm and I ate into a whopping thirty minutes of time meant for “odds and ends” before he leaves for school.

For some reason, when one is running late, they tend to accomplish more than the opposite, whereas chances of getting late increase tenfold when your mind knows there’s ample time.

I manage to get him ready for pick up with seven minutes to spare.

At 6.58am, the minder calls; the yellow bus is outside my gate. It is only when the boy jumps on board that it hits me I’ve dressed him in the navy blue polo and khaki trousers instead of sky blue round neck and black track suit. It is Wednesday, which means there is soccer, clubs then swimming.

As the bus pulls away, his little hand waves me bye from the window, unaware that four essential Wednesday items are missing in his bag; a towel, lotion, spare boxers and a swimming costume.

That is the headache most parents with children in modern schools have to contend with; an entire clothing line in the name of school uniform.


You see, my primary school uniform was very simple: a pair of maroon shorts and a yellow or orange shirt (depending on how colour blind your parent was).

The girls wore long maroon dressed with yellow collars and belts. The standard pullover was maroon, with chewed edges and openings at the elbows dripping loose yarn.

There was no official colour for socks and shoes because I was the only one with a pair . . . yes in the whole school, a privilege I paid for dearly with mass hate. Swimming lessons in primary school?

In the late 80s and 90s? Hehehe. Which school? That was for you to go dufo mpararo yourself in the stream nearby until you learnt how to remain afloat. Most of us never managed to grasp that art and had to wait for high school or adulthood.

During PE, all the boys did was remove their shirts and run around bare-chested but in the same pair of shorts. I do not have to add barefoot . . . well, apart from me.

The girls half-undressed, remaining with petticoats/camisoles and ugly yellow or green bloomers. For those wondering what that is; bloomers were the bigger version of those waterproof nylon diapers babies wear to prevent pee spilling out, complete with tight rubber bands at the openings.

They clutched onto those girls’ thighs with the grip of a tick, making them feel shy. Probably uncomfortable too. Most were not bought; mothers sat on a kiti moto the weekend before opening day with thread and sew together pieces of nylon bought from a draper. The results were hideous.

That uniform was “free selection”, which meant every pupil had a different shade of what should be uniform; banana yellow, lemon yellow, clover yellow, cadmium, butter, titanium and even blond.

Huddled together, the girls looked like a bunch of bananas; some ripe, some almost there, others still raw. And to show how serious things were, none of those pieces of uniform were branded; then again most primary schools only had a name, address and motto. No official logo.

These days, I have a dedicated drawer for his uniform; fleece jacket, cap, branded hoodie, polo, round neck, track suit, sports shoes, black shoes, crocs, swim-wear heh.

The problem is, however, not even in remembering what to wear on which day, or what activity happens when; it lies in the cost. These young ones have expensive fabric, and sometimes the same can only be found at specific stores in not-so-durable qualities.

They have to be washed with minimal soap and dried under a shade otherwise things fade before the term ends. My son’s uniform, for instance, can only be found at two outlets on Ngong Road, otherwise all the walk through uniform distributors in the central business district yields nothing.

I could have the exact colour of polo or round neck, but a missing logo disqualifies it as uniform.

I have many times asked myself; is it still considered uniform when some of us forget and send them to school in a pair meant for a different day? What goes through a child’s mind when he is seated among peers in a round neck (branded with the school logo) but the rest are in polo shirts?

Is modern education pushing uniform to unwarranted limits? I don’t know, someone will give me answers someday.

In the meantime, I am working on a ‘Uniform Table’ which will show day of the week against set of outfit. I’ll print and paste it on our dressing table, so that I never have to dress him differently another day.

Does someone else have such troubles out there?


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