The Ghana school uniforms: its impact and shortcomings unveiled
In the globalised world, the definition of a school uniform goes beyond regional customs; it is a global phenomenon, with over 20% of students worldwide wearing these standardised outfits. ‘
School uniforms have transcended borders and cultures, serving as a common thread in the education experience globally.
While critics argue that uniforms may stifle individuality and creativity, others argue they foster a sense of belonging, create equality among students, enhance safety, and improve discipline and academic focus.
Moreover, uniforms help to level the playing field, reducing socioeconomic inequalities that can result from alternative clothing.
Every student, regardless of their background, stands on equal footing when they wear their uniform.
In the ongoing debate about school uniforms, the evidence shows that these garments play a pivotal role in shaping a positive educational experience for students across the globe.
This narrative takes a turn when we consider countries like Germany, where school uniforms are not a common sight.
German students typically have the freedom to express their personality through their clothing choices, which can range from casual to formal attire.
The emphasis in Germany is often on encouraging students to embrace their personal style, encouraging a different approach to education and self-expression when compared to regions where uniforms are the norm.
As we explore the impact and role of school uniforms, let's journey back in time and visualize a world where these uniforms held a significant subtle prowess.
Reminiscing about my schooling days, I am convicted that donning a school uniform was not just a mundane task, but the key to a world of convenience and privilege.
It reveals a world where school uniforms were more than just attire. In fact, they are the VIP passes, sparing those who wore them from the laborious queues at post office and bus stops, and even granting me the goodwill of benevolent strangers.
But the story doesn't end there; it takes us on a journey back in time to the colonial era when missionaries first set foot on the shores of the Gold Coast. They brought with them not only the message of faith but also the tradition of school uniforms. Missionary schools like the Basel mission and Wesleyan missions, dating back to 1895, proudly introduced the uniform culture.
Since then, Ghana’s schools have imbibed the school uniform culture.
Fast forward to 2019, when the Ghana Education Service (GES) unveiled a brand-new chapter in the story of school uniforms. The introduction of a fresh set of uniforms for Junior High School students in public schools aimed to bridge the transition to secondary school.
The Director-General of the Ghana Education Service at that time, Prof. Opoku Amankwa revealed that the need for the new set of uniforms was for the purpose of the students to “start seeing themselves as secondary school students”.
Graduation caps and symbolic books etched onto the uniforms represented this significant shift.
However, primary school students were entrusted with the responsibility of carrying on with their existing uniforms (“kokonte ne nkatinkwan”) until they completed their primary education.
As we reflect on this captivating journey, it becomes clear that school uniforms are more than just attire; they are the key to unlocking the full potential of education.
During an exclusive interview, Michael Annang, the Administrative Director of Sterling International School in Accra, highlighted the profound psychological impact of school uniforms on students.
He emphasized that students not wearing uniforms could face exclusion from school activities by their peers.
“Psychologically, students’ concerns are a cause of anxiety for both parents and school administrators because they wish to wear uniforms to avoid being excluded by their friends. Their desire is rooted in a yearning for a sense of belonging”.
In the same accord, Nana Kwame Owusu Frimpong, a student at My Redeemer Preparatory School in Sowutuom, Accra, further discussed the influence of school uniforms on his school attendance. He said, “Whenever I put on my school uniform, I am consistently motivated to attend school”.
As Ghana's Educational Transformative Agenda gains momentum, the challenges of cost and quality must be addressed to ensure that every student can access the power and privilege of school uniforms thereby, it is imperative for the government to focus on ensuring the affordability of school uniforms for all public schools. This strategic approach aims to enhance the overall appeal of education, aligning with the government's goal of revolutionizing teaching and learning to enhance educational outcomes by 2030.
Supporting this proposition, Jane Kesewah Ayeh, a former headmistress of Twimia Koase Methodist Junior High School in Techiman in the Bono Region, stressed that the government should consider providing the newly introduced school uniforms free of charge to all junior high school students in public and mission schools nationwide, or alternatively, reduce the cost to make them accessible to all students.
She articulated, “If the government can assist parents by either offering school uniforms free of charge or reducing the cost for parents to purchase, it would be highly beneficial”.
At the heart of these challenges further lies the quality of the fabric itself. The dream fabric should be durable, comfortable, and resistant to fading. Both mission schools and private schools grapple with this issue; and whiles the mission schools are deliberating on calling for government intervention, the private schools are seeking support from branding experts from the private sector.
So, as we stand on the precipice of a new era for school uniforms, the CEO of Rissemma Company Limited, an outfit responsible for the production of over 500,000 yards of school uniforms for different institutions, Mr. Joe Dzitse, offers a glimmer of hope.
He proposes a solution to the cost and quality conundrum, suggesting that school administrators turn to cotton-polyester fabrics for their uniforms.
“These fabrics, a perfect marriage of durability and comfort, promise to be a sound investment in the future of education”, the branding entrepreneur revealed.
Mr. Dzitse invites us to envision a world where aesthetics play a pivotal role in school uniform branding.
The design elements, he argues, have the potential to shape a compelling narrative about Ghanaian schools and elevate the nation's brand identity.
“The fabric students wear isn't just a piece of clothing; it's a canvas that tells a powerful story about the future of education”, Mr.Dzitse noted.
In conclusion, the story of school uniforms is a captivating journey filled with intrigue and promise. These uniforms are more than just attire; they're the key to unlocking the full potential of education in Ghana.