School Uniform War
25 May 2023
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A fortnight after the second semester of the year began, according to reports in the official media, schools are still disobeying a government order not to require parents to buy school uniforms only from the institutions of higher learning.

In order to give parents the power to shop elsewhere for uniforms at typically lower prices, the government has urged schools to stop requiring them to buy all of their children’s clothing from them.

Several schools made it a strict requirement that parents purchase uniforms only from the educational institutions, according to a uniforms controversy that was covered in the state media the day after classes started for the Second Term.

The item was titled “Schools “sewing uniform corruption.” Later, a member of our news team conducted an investigation where the reporter pretended to be a parent looking to purchase extra school supplies like tracksuits for Form 2 and Grade 5 students.

This is what we discovered after arming ourselves with the phone numbers of many boarding institutions dispersed throughout Bulawayo, Matabeleland North, and South Provinces.

Any uniforms purchased from vendors outside the school system will not be accepted, the receptionist at John Tallach, a prominent institution in Ntabazinduna on the outskirts of Bulawayo, declared when the phone rang.

“If you have any outstanding things that your child doesn’t have, like winter tracksuits, please come here and buy, nothing from outside will be tolerated,” said the receptionist over phone.

Mr Wisdom Chikomba, whose twin daughters finished their Form Four at John Tallach three years ago, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, said he endured the school’s strict policy on uniforms for years.

“It’s a very good school, no doubt about that but they can be very strict when it comes to buying uniforms from outside the school. For peace of mind it’s better to just buy your children’s uniforms from the school,” said Mr Chikomba.

John Tallach headmaster Bonakele Ncube denied the allegations.

“It is shocking and surprising to hear such allegations because the school has never at any time sold any uniforms. Our uniforms are bought from independent suppliers, with some parents in the clothing industry even joining independent of the school too. The school has never barred any student because of a uniform,” said the headmaster.

“We however do not accept customised uniforms that are visibly out of shape and style like ‘ompompi’ and o ‘don’t touch’ and altered dresses to be slim fits and mini-skirts or dresses. You are at liberty to visit the school to confirm the truth.”

Our nex stop was Empandeni High School in Mangwe District near Plumtree.

The school has both a primary and high school, which are located side by side in rural Mangwe, about 140 kilometres from Bulawayo.

A Mrs Dube who answered the phone assured Chronicle that everything that a parent wants for their child is available at the school, hence there is no need to buy from suppliers such as leading schools uniform dealers in Bulawayo or Plumtree.

Asked to talk to the school headmaster Mr Mandla Ndlovu, the news crew was told that he is Bulawayo on school business.

“I can’t comment on why uniforms from outside the school are not allowed. The headmaster is out of the office, maybe he can assist you,” Mrs Dube told the Chronicle.

In Bulawayo, at Matshayisikhova Primary School in Luveve suburb, a member of the school’s non-teaching staff also said parents are not advised to buy uniforms from outside.

“Sometimes parents buy uniforms, which don’t exactly meet the right colours of Matshayisikhova. So, the headmistress wants everyone to buy the school uniforms here.

“My children are now in secondary school so I don’t know how much the uniforms cost here but obviously the school will charge a bit extra to make a profit. That’s how it worked when my children were still in primary school here,” she said.

The news crew was given the school’s headmistress, Mrs Thabiso Phiri’s contact details but efforts to get a comment from her were fruitless as her phone continuously rang unanswered.

Primary and Secondary Education spokesman Taungana Ndoro is on record saying that the Government abhors the practice of schools forcing parents to buy uniforms only from the educational institutions.

“The ministry’s position has been very clear since 2018 that no parent must be forced to buy school uniforms at the school,” he said.

“Parents are free to buy wherever it is cheaper as long as they have the specifications from the schools and the right colour codes,” said Mr Ndoro. -state media