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School uniform directive is like wildebeest rushing to crocodiles

One day when I was in high school many decades ago, we came to watch a play at the Kenya National Theatre, Nairobi. We were in our splendid all-red uniform. Other schools were in their greens and browns.

An American tourist couple who had wandered from the nearby Norfolk Hotel was fascinated by the sight.

The lady came and asked us whether the uniforms were from different schools. We said yes, wondering why she was saying the obvious.

American students do not wear uniforms (although I think jeans is the American uniform).
The first purpose of uniforms is identity. You belong to Loreto Girls High School and you can easily be identified. That is why young criminals wear mufti so that no one can trace them to this or that school.

The second purpose is control.

The uniform gives the wearer boundaries. Beyond this line you cannot go. You must have the outrage when below 18s are found drinking in bars. In school uniform!

Wearing the same uniform is also meant to give the learners a sense of equality. Here, there is neither humble background nor posh upbringing. You are all the same.

Never mind if, on visiting days, the reality shows up.

Beyond school, uniforms in the disciplined forces pass the same message. Here, the point is to intimidate the criminal or enemies of the State. That, though, is a story for another day.

When uniforms for matatu drivers and conductors were being mooted, I heard one driver protest that “Sare ni za watoto wa shule (uniforms are meant for schoolchildren).”

Despite the misgiving, the uniforms were introduced. However, most of them are worn quite badly and shabbily, reflecting the industry’s discarding of the laws that was meant to “tame” them — the so-called ‘Michuki laws’.

Uniforms give a sense of unity of purpose beyond school.

Incidentally, what is with blue for all church women’s groups? ACK’s Mothers Union, PCEA’s Women’s Guild and Catholic CWA all wear blue.

However, uniformity sometimes stifles creativity.

In this case, I’m referring to the directive for all school buses to be painted yellow.

One of the most successful groups of schools founder appeared to love purple. She dresses in purple. The school uniforms have purple and the buses as well.

Now all that is hidden in the yellow monsters.

Somebody somewhere wants people to think the same way, like wildebeest rushing down the cliff regardless of the predatory deadly crocodiles in the river.

People’s creativity must not be stifled. People’s independence of thought must not be stifled.

Refuse to be the wildebeest, following your leader down the cliff.

WANJIKU MATENJWA, Nairobi.