Resistance begins to build against West Bengal’s new rules for school uniforms

September 17, 2022 05:42 am | Updated 05:42 am IST - Kolkata:

Picture used for representational purposes only. File

Picture used for representational purposes only. File | Photo Credit: Bhagya Prakash K.

Uncertainty continues to prevail in West Bengal over the issue of uniforms in schools either run or aided by the State Government. Many institutions yet to get their supply and many others yet to hear from the administration regarding their pleas against the imposition of a colour scheme that is common to all.

Until December 2020, when uniforms were last issued, the schools entrusted self-help groups to get them stitched every year. Each student, right from nursery to Class 8, got two sets each. Starting this year, however, the State Government not only took over the entire process but also mandated that uniforms across West Bengal be of the same colour combination — blue and white — with the Biswa Bangla logo on the pocket.

One result of the State Government choosing to get directly involved is that many schools are yet to get their uniforms even though the academic year is nearing its end; and now several schools, particularly those run by minority organisations, are resisting the idea of a common uniform across the State. They contend that such uniformity threatened the individual identities of schools.

“Our uniform is white and green — that’s been our identity for over a century now. The founder body has written to the government, asking that the colour of our uniform be retained. But neither have we got any reply from the government nor have we received new uniforms,” said a source associated with Kolkata’s Lee Memorial Girls’ High School, opened in 1895 and run by the Methodist Church of India.

“West Bengal has many schools governed by minority organisations, such as CNI, Baptist Church, Roman Catholic Church, and as far as I know, they are all against the idea of a common uniform for all,” the source said.

Last month, the 1857-built Contai High School in East Midnapore witnessed protests by its alumni, who raised their voice against its iconic khaki-and-white uniform being replaced with blue-and-white. They marched to the school, carrying banners that said: “Say no to uniform change, say no to logo change.”

“Uniform for me has always been a personal identity. Even now, when I see someone wearing the uniform of my alma mater, my heart goes aflutter. I am sure that is the case with most. Uniforms create a sense of belonging and pride. As a principal, I really hate the idea of same uniform for all schools. It would not only make it difficult to readily identify students of different schools but also take away the independence of the school authorities,” said Krishnakoli Ray, who heads a girls’ school in Kolkata.

“A uniform colour code may be a novel idea, but it definitely undermines the idea of diversity that is so characteristic of Indian culture. The concept of inclusion and divergent thinking is sadly missing from the entire exercise. There was no way we could oppose even though most of us must have wanted to. Most of my peers orally opposed the idea, but with a government at the helm which does not believe in the democratic right to oppose, most were not ready to officially do so,” Ms. Ray said.

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