June 9, 2017
When I was in school, many years ago (I am not revealing my age) I used to feel odd walking down the street to the bus stop wearing a white shirt and white shorts. It was rare to find girls in shorts anyways, in those days, and that too wearing one to school. In junior school, it wasn’t that bad, as it became by the time we reached senior school. Most men would ogle and woman would see us curiously. Many of us started to get comfortable and even liked our dress, when we were in standard 11 and 12. It was then we realised how cool, fashionable our school uniform was and how we were way ahead of our times. “It was a very gender neutral uniform. Without trying hard, we did make a statement in those days,” says Sandhya Kumar, an alumni of Mother’s International School. So when the recent row over a school dress in Kerala broke out in Social Media, I was wondering if uniforms can ever go wrong. But it seems they have.
A school at Aruvithura in Kottayam, Kerala, found itself in the middle of a controversy because of the design of its new school uniform. It started with a photographer called Zachariah Ponkunnam posting an image of the same on Facebook, describing it as “vulgar”. After the unfound publicity, the school decided to rethink the design.
But this controversy opened up a pandora’s box of dos and don’ts; of what is acceptable and if there should be a guideline to follow for school uniforms. “Yes, in today’s time, it is a pertinent question. The design should be non-controversial and not provocative. Though the said school has argued that the vulgarity lies in the eyes of the beholder, which can’t be denied, still, school uniforms should be as gender neutral, simple as possible,” says Manjary Ganguly,Sociology Teacher in Shri Venkateshwara School.
School uniforms are believed to be a practice which dates to the 16th century in the United Kingdom. It is believed that the Christ Hospital School in London in 1552 was the first school to use a school uniform. Though the roots of the modern day uniform come mostly from the collegiate uniforms in England. Universities, primary schools and secondary schools used uniforms as a marker of class and status, which in turn served as a boundary. “Uniforms serve a very important purpose of maintaining oneness within the school. It creates a sense of belonging and therefore instills pride in a student, which associates itself with the teaching of the organisation. It saves on time, which allows students to reach school in time, and definitely eliminates gang clothing in school,” says G Sneha, Junior teacher, AECS Magnolia Maaruti Public School. Even though, students often don’t like the uniform they wear, it is that very uniform that they appreciate later. “We were crazy for colored clothes. But now realise that the uniforms were such levellers. They helped many from getting bullied. It is nostalgia now,” says Sameer Ahmed , Alumni of Army School.