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Last Updated: Monday, 22 September, 2003, 08:21 GMT 09:21 UK
Are school uniforms outdated?
Children queueing outside school
Queueing for free education, but how much is the uniform?

The South African Education department is concerned about the cost of school uniforms to the majority of parents in the country.

There has been considerable media speculation about the possiblity of scrapping school uniforms altogether.

However, the department is clear that is does not intend introducing new regulations at present.

Should children in school have a uniform?
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

A departmental statement said they would "ensure that individual parents have a direct say in the type and form and ultimately the cost of the school uniform they would want to prescribe."

"What we cannot countenance is that learners are denied access to their constitutional right to education because of restrictive school policies such as those concerning expensive school uniforms."

For this reason, the department said unique schools uniforms might be prescribed at schools where the majority of parents could afford it, provided that schools found ways of assisting those who could not afford it.

"This does not mean we will do away with school uniforms but we might look at innovative ways to lower prices."

The BBC's Africa Live programme asks how important are school uniforms?

Are they divisive, old-fashioned, a waste of money and demeaning for older students?

Or are they neat and tidy, a source of pride, good for discipline, whilst also offering a way to disguise of economic disparities?

Join the BBC's Africa Live programme Wednesday, 24 September at 1630 and 1830 GMT.

Use the form to send us your comments, some of which will be published below.

If you would like to take part in the discussion, e-mail us with your telephone number.

Your comments:

We should not be so quick in dismissing uniforms. I believe uniforms make all students, no matter their backgrounds, equal. Young people are impressionable and in this age of changing fashion, those who cannot keep up because of costs will feel intimidated and left out.
Karanu, Kenya

We should not abolish school uniforms but their usefulness would be enhanced if schools were made to wear different uniforms. It would make it easier to identify the pupils - that used be the case in Ghana until the government in the 1990s prescribed one uniform for all basic schools.
Ali Anankpieng, Ghana

The word UNIFORM is self-explanatory. It is there to TEACH children conformity. If one cannot conform to the acceptable behaviour in society, one cannot function as part of that society.
A Booyse, UK

School uniforms are good as they help in keeping pupils focused and not side tracked by the latest fashions. However they must be of good hard wearing quality, and maybe brighter colours instead of black, navy blue or grey.

The use of school uniforms in Africa should not be abolished as it promotes the culture of discipline, cleanliness and orderliness in the students. If uniforms are abolished it will give students a sense of unnecessary freedom and they will look like rebel groups with everybody wearing what ever he or she likes.
Chinedu Ibeabuchi, Nigeria

School uniforms are only popular on the African continent. In the Western world, students do not know what uniforms are. They wear what they can afford. It is good that many poor nations retain school uniform as a way of identifying their pupils and as a means of bridging the gap between poor and rich children. Were school uniforms to be dropped students would dress in all kinds of traditional dress, from monkey skins to 'kangas', you name it!
Harrahs Malinda, Kenya

I went to school in Southern Africa . We wore uniforms for regular class and dressed up in plain clothes for special occasions.This had a major equalising effect on the haves and have nots. Uniforms were very smart and they created a strong sence of identity. They also served as a subtle form of discipline when we were in public. There were no bandanas, no gang colours, unsightly hairstyles, competition for who was best dressed and no time wasted on trying to make fashion statements. One only has to look at schools in the UK to see how the relaxed uniform code has affected their performance in academics and sports, as well as their disciplinary standards .
Ilizwe Lethu, Canada

I could not engage in certain bad activities whilst I was a pupil because I was in a school uniform and could be easily identified and punished. School uniforms instill a sense of discipline and identity in school children and are therefore important.
Hesbon, Nairobi kenya

Of course, school uniforms are very important. My school was opposite a five star hotel and one of my classmates who was from a very rich family used to sneak out of school for lunch in this hotel. The only common denominator between us and this classmate was the school uniform. Uniforms make students feel the same despite the material affiliations of their families. With a level platform, they can concentrate on their studies.
John Koigi, Nairobi Kenya

Without uniforms, a delinquent youth may find it easier to indulge in truancy and other social vices, therefore the uniform remains a reliable tool of positive identification.
Medua Nwasor

I appreciate the fact that most parents in Africa cannot afford to buy school uniforms for their kids however, it distinguishes them from others and allows them special privileges. It also forces them to return home after school rather than going to the pub.
Henry Mbawa Jr.,Freetown, Sierra Leone

In Kenya, when a student lands himself or herself into trouble he or she can only be helped if they are in uniform. They can also travel to and from school at half price or free of charge. Therefore I believe school uniforms should be retained for the welfare of the students .
Justus Korir, Nairobi

As an American, seeing how students spend more time looking good for school rather than hitting the books, I do not think uniforms are outdated at all, in fact I wish the government over here made uniforms mandatory in all schools.
Abdiel Lawrence, USA

I feel that uniforms are necessary if one wants to instill a sense of equality in the pupils. However, they should not be expensive or fancy - a simple golf style T-shirt with dark trousers or a skirt, with a logo should suffice. I believe blazers are completely redundant, especially in hot weather! Keep the concept of uniforms, but make it simple and cheap!
Kristy, UK

Why did I love my school uniform? Because it was the only short and shirt my parents ensured had no obscene, gaping holes! Many kids today are in the same situation I was in. Give them a chance, RETAIN UNIFORMS!
Munene J.M.,Kenya

Having taught for a short while in both England and The Gambia, I have come to the conclusion that uniforms do not make pupils equal or keep their minds off fashion. They can still show off their parents wealth while in uniform. However uniforms are a handy tool for teachers. It helps them assert their authority.
Ekes, England

Of all the practices we inherited from the colonial period, the one that I think is still relevant is the wearing of school uniforms. I wish uniforms were mandatory in the Unites States as each morning I have to fight with my children about what to wear, a problem my parents never had when I was growing up in Sierra Leone. The emphasis was on education.
Jacob Conteh, US

I think it would help if governments subsidized the cost of uniforms making it affordable to all.
Alfred Beaty, US

I am a firm believer in the wearing of school uniforms for several reasons. However I feel that if the school is located in a remote and extremely poor village, exceptions should be made. In such a case, the school should be allowed to operate a no uniform policy because the people would have more immediate concerns than fashion!
Martha Banda, Zambia

Uniforms should not be removed because if you allow students to wear ordinary clothes to school, those who can afford it will dress up in more expensive clothes than their teachers. How do we expect the students to respect their teachers then?
Nasiru Tejan, Sierra Leone

Uniforms exist not only in schools but in other areas of life as well, for example in the army, in hospitals and in banks. Professional organisations have dress codes which are similar to uniforms so why then should we say that school uniforms are outdated?
Godfrey Kayembe, Zambia

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