School uniform prices ‘could be slashed’ – but will dress codes remain?
Parents across South Africa may soon get the good news they've been hoping for: The Education Department is looking at ways to make school uniforms cheaper.
Education Minister Angie Motshekga has confirmed there will now be a concerted effort to ensure that school uniforms are priced ‘fairly and competitively’. Parents have been left with very little choice of where they can buy appropriate schoolwear to suit school dress codes, but on Monday, the first step towards sourcing cheaper clothing for learners was taken.
Angie Motshekga ‘sets wheels in motion’ for cheaper school uniforms
Motshekga announced that, following years of investigations into complaints received from parents who were forced to buy school uniforms from exclusively-selected suppliers, the Competition Commission and School Governing Body Associations will finally sign a Memorandum of Understanding today.
The Minister said the commission and the department are working around the clock to ensure school uniforms are affordable and accessible. Motshekga recalled her township childhood, and expressed personal sympathies to the parents who have to fork out for this gear – when they’re already coming from a poor background.
Will dress codes be binned? Don’t count on it…
However, scrapping school uniforms was not a viable solution. Addressing an audience at the Abram Hlophe Primary School in Katlehong, Motshekga reasoned that getting rid of the dress code would expose wealth inequalities amongst children and classmates, creating added pressures for both younger learners and teenagers.
“This is very close to my heart and I think anybody who comes from a poor background – like ourselves – or a township will tell you the value of a school uniform. Home clothes are a big problem because they’re a social indicator and if you remove school uniforms you’re going to begin to show which kids come from rich families and those who don’t.”
“Young people are sensitive and if they don’t have designer clothes it embarrasses them… They don’t want to be seen in torn clothes and if they don’t have shoes it’s a big deal and impacts on their image, so they just drop out. Children in high school are already ‘conscious of themselves’. Learners need to be engaged with their studies at all times.”