Coincidence cannot be used to explain this. Just this weekend, we talked about irrelevancy of uniforms in Indian schools. Charu happened to see some rural school children attired in school uniform but without any shoes (blog
down now up!). Meanwhile, Rediff columnist Raghavendra Rathore has an article up ‘in praise of uniform design‘. Raghavendra talks mostly about corporate uniform and importance of recall value rather than school uniforms although he mentions that uniforms make it easier to be identified when out on a trip or situation that requires recognition. Also the case in favor of uniforms is primarily rooted in equaling class differences and reducing any chances of display of personal wealth.
Anyone who has attended a school in India will certify that uniforms simply do not achieve these aims. Teenagers manage to accessorize themselves that give away class differences. In any case, everyone is aware of their friend’s social class and personal wealth and any overt display of that wealth is generally frowned upon. Uniforms disappear as soon kids graduate from school to colleges and all personal trappings of wealth, social class, and individuality come tumbling out. It is important to observe that nothing drastically changes when the stringent rules of uniforms are lifted. Teenagers still make friendship and socialize across the board and any prejudices, if any exist even if uniforms existed. We recently saw the public outcry over University of Mumbai Vice-Chancellor’s diktat of trying to police a dress code (he ultimately had to retract his policy. Yay! more power to us). Why do we take school uniforms for granted? They aren’t cheaper than ordinary clothes by any means but rather retailers demand an extra premium for customization. They are an unnecessary expense with no evident benefit. You would argue that students will not waste time or money deciding what to wear if they don’t have a choice. In that case, shouldn’t we be also policing school bags, pencil boxes, kinds of pens and pencils, erasers? Haven’t you learnt to deal that your parents couldn’t afford the imported multi-layered ‘cool’ pencil box from America? You let your exam marks do the talking for you. Also, in India, nerds tend to get more attention and respect than anywhere else in the world. Flashy gadgets, expensive clothes, and unnecessary accessories matter only so much.
More importantly, the total ludicrousness of a uniform code that is not suited to Indian climes. I’ll let the South Bombay schools that include a blazer in their school uniform go by since they aren’t that many to crib about and they are too snooty to listen to my rants anyway. But the near-prevalence of ties in almost all urban schools is simply ridiculous. Ties aren’t worn in the traditional sense anyway and lend only a false sense of smartness. As you know, ties only make it difficult to flee a class fight and are twice as long as before the school year begun. White uniform on PT and sports days is a brainchild of a very stupid person. Anyone who recommends white clothing for boisterous kids on days spent on the dusty playground clearly works for smart detergent company. School uniforms are only a sorry attempt to make every child look the same when they clearly are not. Uniforms are meant for the army so you don’t end up killing your own people. If you need clothing to instill a sense of belonging, I am sorry I can’t help you.
Having said that, I loved my school uniforms; for the first month of every school year.