It’s that time of the year again when you’ve got to spend many hours and many grands on your child’s school uniform and stationery. You may have a friendly neighbourhood school uniform tailor who could offer you better quality and affordable prices but the school would have none of it. Your child is asked by way of circulars, verbal warnings and even punishment to stick to the merchandise of the in-school uniform and stationery counter.
“Delhi schools have always been insistent that uniform and stationery be purchased from vendors within the school premises, but now they seem to have gone overboard with it,” says Shikha Gupta, mother of six-year-old Niharika who studies in a prominent south Delhi school.
The school, as many others, have made it compulsory for parents to purchase a ‘stationery and accessory kit’ worth Rs 3,000.
“The kit has two boxes of crayons and other colours, apart from blank notebooks etc., none of which we needed,” the parent says.
Smart schools, smarter parents
When it comes to uniform, the situation is even worse. In the name of ensuring ‘uniformity’, some schools are imposing uniform-sets on students at prices higher than the open market. They have also found interesting ways to check and ensure that the child wears the uniform purchased from the school tailor. A prominent convent school for girls in central Delhi has got differently shaped buttons with the school initials engraved on them. Needless to say, only the shirts with those buttons, available exclusively with the school tailor, are allowed to be worn by the kids.
Earlier the school used to check the labels on the shirt collar but parents outsmarted them by buying the uniform from outside and removing the labels. “I just don’t like the quality of fabric used by the school tailor but am helpless because I don’t want my child to suffer embarrassment or punishment. Let the winters arrive and I’ll make her wear a good quality shirt underneath the sweaters as the buttons would no longer be visible,” says Anuradha Sharma, mother of eight-year-old Ishita.
“Perhaps I wouldn’t even mind paying a bit higher for the convenience of buying the uniform from the school itself. But it is the feeling of not being given a choice to make that decision is what bugs me,” says another parent.
Some schools take pride in ‘designer-uniforms’ with specially printed patterns and monograms that do not leave much choice with the parents anyway since it’s not commercially viable for any tailor outside to get just a few pieces made on order. “Gone are the days when schools had white shirts with simple embroidered logos. The trend of designer uniforms started by the so called richie-rich schools in Vasant Kunj and other such areas doesn’t leave any scope for an outsider to enter the fray,” says Manish Mahajan who runs a popular uniform shop in Rajouri Garden.
The story doesn’t end here. Schools have gone a step ahead when it comes to shoes. Some schools have tied up with sportswear brands and have instructed the students to wear shoes only of those brands. In some cases, even the design number of the shoe is specified by the school authorities and an exactly same shoe of any other brand won’t do.
When enquired about such a move, LV Sehgal, Principal, Bal Bharti School (Gangaram), said, “Yes, we have this rule for the past two years that children would wear a certain model and brand of shoes but this is because earlier, children had to carry two pairs of shoes, the normal ones and the sports variety on days that they had their PT period. The prescribed shoes work well for both purposes. In any case, on the feedback of parents, we are due to revise the policy shortly.”
So do the schools have the authority to impose such restrictions at will? “We can take action against any school which puts unnecessary compulsions on parents, but we need parents to come forward and give us specific complaints, so that the merits of the case can be looked into,” says Rina Ray, Secretary (Education), Delhi Government.
(The names of the parents and their wards have been changed on request)