Should Schools Be Communal Sartorial Battlegrounds?

January 15, 2022

The uniform makes for brotherhood, since when universally adopted it covers up all differences of class and country.” - Robert Baden-Powell (1857- 1941), British Army Officer, writer and founder and first Chief Scout of world-wide Scout Movement.

Modern schools have what is called house-uniform for both girl and boy students. But, many common run of schools have no dress regulations and nobody bothered about it for decades. But, now dresses worn by students have become matter of controversy and communal flare-ups. Given below are some excerpts from recent media coverage on the subject.

  • Udupi, Jan 13: Because of the dispute over wearing of Hijab by the Muslim girl students, the girl students have been studying outside their classroom.
  • The news that several girl students were sent out of the class in the government PU college here a few days back because they were wearing Hijabs had hit national level headlines.
  • The issue is yet to be resolved.

Chikkamagaluru, Jan 11 (IANS): The saffron shawl versus hijab row ended at the Balagadi First Grade College in Koppa taluk of Chikkamagaluru district in Karnataka as students and parents called a truce and agreed not to wear either a hijab or a saffron shawl along with the uniform to the college from January 11.

However, the girls will be allowed to wear veils on the face. The decision was made at the parents meeting held in the college.

Principal S Ananth addressing the meeting stated that a similar controversy erupted in 2018. Then, a decision was taken to only cover the face with a veil. This time also consent has been taken from all.

The row erupted recently when a group of students started attending classes in hijabs. In retaliation to this, another group of students started wearing saffron scarves and shawls to the college.

The students last week staged a protest by boycotting classes for allowing some of the students to wear a hijab. The students said that uniform norms were violated by some students who wear a hijab along with the uniform. If they are allowed to wear hijabs, then they must also be allowed to come with saffron scarves and shawls, the agitating students demanded.

In the middle of all these developments and controversies, Mangalore University Vice-Chancellor is reported to have said on January 7, 2022 that a committee will be asked to make suggestions on how the issue could be addressed at the respective college levels. He said academic activities – and not political or religious interference - should take center-stage on campuses.

There can be much more that can be said on the subject. But, I would rather conclude with John Dewey (1859-1952), American philosopher and educational reformer: “Man is not logical and his intellectual history is a record of mental reserves and compromises. He hangs on to what he can in his old beliefs even when he is compelled to surrender their logical basis.”

The subject is open to many views. What are yours? Your response is welcome in the format given below. (Please scroll down a bit.)


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By John B Monteiro
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Comment on this article

  • Rohan, Mangalore

    Sun, Jan 16 2022

    Dear Sir I liked the last sentence of John Dewey. We have to shed our old inhibitions and move forward without clinging to the past when it is least logical. Someone anointed me a sinner to be saved at birth and now I believe I am no sinner. I am a wonderful, pure and beautiful creation on a spiritual journey. When you are in this realm outward signs will make no difference. May all be enlightened. Happy weekend.

  • Veer, Nagpur

    Sun, Jan 16 2022

    This tit-for-tat action by saffron brigade and with a conditional challenge within school campus against fellow students like opposition political party is not acceptable. It’s not part of students curriculum and studies and doesn’t hinder or affect thier studies in anyway. It’s purely school’s disciplinary and administrative matter. If there is any disagreement then it should be sought out in Parents-Teachers meeting, students are nowhere involved in these administrative matters. Hijab is part of Muslim dress code, also mentioned in Muslim holy book for women to dress modestly provided the face is fully shown from forehead to chin and ear to ear. But in Hindu scriptures nowhere is mentioned for women about wearing shawl. If students are encouraged and exploited to get involved in these unrelated affairs by vested parties with authority and power then this govt is directing our future generation and our country to the path of self destruction and chaos. Silence from from our state heads on these sensitive and very dear matter affecting our children is very much deafening.

  • mohan prabhu, Mangalore/Ottawa, Canada

    Sun, Jan 16 2022

    Sartorial disputes arise not because the students want but are coerced by their parents to assert their identity by flashing religious symbols. This happens because of the rivalry between Hindus and Muslims. Never heard of any Christian going to a public or non-Christian school publicly displaying Christian symbols, like the Cross and the Scapular. That is because they are a small minority and parents are not fundamentalists.

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