My uniform and other conflicts

Janu Narayan

How can one even think of doing away with the school uniform? I wonder how the same me who was always disgusted with the very idea of wearing the ‘burdensome’ attire can think like this today!

Well, I admit that school uniforms have evolved to become an identity, in fact, a badge of pride rather than just being an outfit. Or to put it the other way, it induces a sense of belonging to a particular organization among the students. Experts point out many reasons for making students wear the same dress, including the reduction of distractions as well as peer pressure.

For someone like me who grew up in the tropical parts of the country, I could never understand the ‘logic’ behind wearing all the ‘extra stuff’ like the tie, shoes, socks, etc. However, kids from schools in the northern part (basically the non-tropical region) of the country have no option but to wear all these, including two types of uniforms a year, owing to the extremities in the climate.

Here, a group of students from different schools of Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) share what they like or dislike, love or hate about their school uniforms.

Some summer-winter affairs!

The scorching, sticky, AC breaking summers are quite an issue for many of the students here.
“Earlier we had a change in the material used for summer and winter uniforms. And it was pretty much comfortable. Now we have the same uniform for both the seasons. So in summer, I feel really uncomfortable in the full sleeved shirts and heavy trousers,” says Anju Anil, a 12th grade student of KIIT World School, Pitampura, New Delhi. Anju just could not approve of the change and she hopes that the school authorities will address this issue someday.

Manav Pandita, a 10th grade student of the same school feels that the school should exempt them from wearing school uniforms in summer. “I strongly feel that we should be allowed to wear the outfit of our choice during summer. None of the uniform types I have seen so far suits the harsh climate,” says Manav. Casual wear in summer is an option which could be considered.

The winters do not seem to be as problematic as most schools have blazers or other such additions to their uniforms or even separate uniforms designed to keep warm.

While there are the difficulties in wearing different uniforms for different seasons, Farheen Kurshird makes a point regarding its affordability. Usually the government schools get free winter uniforms, but the supplies got delayed in the previous years. “The designers should also consider the availability as well as affordability of the fabrics while designing the winter uniforms. It is always better if we are given the option to choose rather than making everything compulsory for everyone,” says Farheen, a class 8 student of government girls higher secondary school, Bharat Nagar. She also said that not everyone can make do with just one sweater. She needs more number of cardigans and mufflers, despite hailing from a place like Kashmir. Hence there should be nothing hard and fast about the winter uniforms.

The uniform of Kendriya Vidyalaya was changed recently after 50 years of the schools’ existence. Now they have grey divided skirts with red border and a blue half-sleeved check shirt. The much awaited change has seemingly generated some kind of disappointment among the students. Some feel that the charm and simplicity of the earlier blue-white uniform is not there with the newly introduced one.

“Now we have grey divided skirts with red border and a blue half sleeved check shirt. I feel they don’t match with each other” says Anjana Unni, a class 8 student of KV, Delhi disapprovingly. She is also against the change in the type of shoes as well. She liked the previous shoes as they looked more feminine. The newly introduced shoes for girls and boys look the same, points out Anjana.

Apart from winters and summers, KV also has a Wednesday and Saturday uniform or house uniform (tracksuit) which is white, blue and red in colour. Manupriya Singh just could not approve of these many uniforms. “We have many uniforms and I don’t like it,” says the class 5 student, who feels that these are too much for her to remember and dress up everyday accordingly.

Anjana Unni would be very happy if schools allow students to wear casuals for few days a week or even for a whole week. She has her own definition of uniforms, “An ideal dress code will be anything that makes you look smart and presentable in front of others.” She sincerely hopes that she will not end up in a college with another uniform.

Shubham Rawat, a class 10 student of Rockfield Public School in Rohini, is in fact fond of her school uniform. Normally, when in high school, students develop an aversion towards their dull and not so stylish uniforms, and they long to get out of school and kick-start an ‘adult’ life. Shubham too feels the same, but she likes her uniform and she has a genuine reason for this. She says that it makes everybody look the same. She further adds, “But I love wearing casuals so that I look different and in style. Schools should have at least one or two days when we can wear casuals. The school has white shirt and grey pants for both summer and winter. In winters, blazers are compulsory.”

In addition to this, the school also has house-wise shirts. Shubham feels that house ‘t-shirts’ should be worn every day during summers instead of the regular ‘shirts’, because in summers it is not comfortable to wear full sleeved house shirts.

According to Surya Pillai, a Keralite who was born and brought up in Delhi, “There is no restriction on wearing a scarf or gloves or stockings in winters.” This high school student of New State Academy school also adds that some schools don’t allow students to wear even these.

Aayush feels that there is no need of changing the entire uniform owing to the change in seasons. “I don’t like it when they (the school authorities) change the entire uniform according to seasons. Only small additions like blazers, tie, etc., should be there because I think it creates an undue burden.”

But he loves his newly changed uniform and says, “Our school uniform (Vidya Bharti Public School) is blue in colour and I love my uniform. It is better than the previous brown color we had.”

He says, “We wear house dress on Tuesdays and Fridays. We have 6 to 7 houses and they are all of different colours. Thus, the house t-shirts vary. Red, blue purple, green, grey are some of the colours.”

Of style and colour
All are seemingly up for the house-wise uniforms. That is the only way to add colour and style to their otherwise dull attire. Some feel that the casual dress should be allowed at least once a week. While some have issues with the colour of the uniform, others think that the colours in the uniform material do not even match.

From the vantage point of culture, religion and the like
Do you think our little friends actually think about their culture and religion when it comes to their school uniforms? Yes, some of them do.

Sufia Intzar, a 6th grade student of The Frank Anthony Public School feels that her school uniform is ‘not okay’ from a religious and cultural angle. The convent school has shirt and skirts, which according to her is way too short. She wishes for it to be changed to salwar-kameez. Her mother intervenes and says a big no to skirts, as it poses some difficulties for the girls while travelling.

Mohammed Saad, a class 2 student of the same school does not seem to have a problem. He is quite happy in his shirt and shorts.

“The school uniform is quite good and okay from a religious and cultural angle, as it covers the full body”, Abdullah Naved Ansari, a 3rd standard student of Hamdard Public school makes a point. His sister Areeba Naved Ansari (6th std), gives a nod of approval.

The room for comfort
Nonetheless, many raise arguments against the idea of following such a kind of ‘uniformity’. At the end of the day, it is all about comfort. The school uniform should be comfortable, which suits the place of learning. One should be able to carry it with ease not only inside the classroom, but also while playing and commuting.

The tail note: After listening to all the talk regarding school uniforms, I still don’t believe it changes anything. It does not prevent bullying or malpractices in schools. It does not address behavioural problems or affect the test scores. I hope some desirable changes take place.

The author is a freelance writer and news photographer based in New Delhi. She can be reached at [email protected].

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