Hems and Ankles

The issue of the length of girls’ school uniforms in Jamaica was the subject of conversation months ago. Last week it became a topic again based on a letter written in one of the dailies and a subsequent article, again in one of the dailies.

The first time it reared its head I did not comment but I had my own thoughts on the matter at the time and I still do. For those of you reading who are my age or older, perhaps when you look at photos of your moms in high school, their hems were nowhere near their ankles. That was the case for my mom and her friends.

Before I go any further, I must say I believe in rules and that children must have boundaries, but that does not mean that rules do not sometimes need to be questioned. I also believe that children, both male and female must be attired modestly. But there is modesty and there is modesty and the hems at the ankles is, in my opinion, beyond modest. I have attended co-educational institutions my entire life and my uniform lengths were always below my knees but never at/near my ankles.

As the discourse continues, here and abroad because it is not only here that there are issues with school uniforms (and the rules that basically only apply to girls); let us think about what we want out children to learn. The teenage years are some of the most topsy-turvy years in a child’s development and even if he/she had the best of starts, there are so many things that could go haywire during this period. What having hems at ankles do not teach are: respect, respect for self and respect for the opposite sex (and this works from both perspectives), self-esteem, self-worth, equality and a myriad of other things.  What hems at ankles end up inflicting are body image issues and a lack or shared responsibility as well as placement of blame where it should not lie. So to the educators out there, I have two questions for you: What do you really want your students to learn (and I do not mean the written curriculum you are expected to follow for examinations) and is what you are teaching going to achieve this?

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