Furore over School Teachers’ Dress Code | Daily News

Furore over School Teachers’ Dress Code

These days the talk of the town seems to be about the dress code of teachers. There seem to be two camps – one that thinks a teacher should be able to dress anyway she wants and another that argues for a uniform dress code. A lot of people think that this whole argument is silly and unnecessary with all the trouble in the country. The Daily News spoke to the President of Sri Lanka Podujana Education Services Union Wasantha Handapangoda, to find out what she thinks about this hullabaloo.

Handapangoda pointed out that with all the problems in the country, this entire argument is foolish.

“With all the suffering that people are going through, don’t you think we have more important things to worry about? I personally think that the Saree or Osariya is more suitable for a teacher. I think uniform dress code is more befitting. Today people use the term ‘light clothing’. I wish to ask, what is the definition of ‘light clothing’? because even a nighty dress can be called ‘light clothing’. Today there are all kinds of fashion out there. So again there is no proper consensus as to what ‘light clothing’ is,” said Handapangoda.

President of Sri Lanka Podujana Education Services Union Wasantha Handapangoda

She added that from the 1930’s, teachers have been wearing the Saree or Osariya when going to school. Our traditional textile industry dates back to the age of Kuweni, says Handapangoda.

“It is not only the price of Saree that has gone up, even the price of a loaf of bread has gone up. If you take the 2014 Budget, there was a discussion about the Saree. We asked for a discount to be given. Executive Grade Officers got a 15% discount for Sarees. So we asked for the same to be given to teachers in the 2014 Budget. It was agreed but could not be implemented. If you take nurses, they get all kind of perks. They get all kinds of privileges. So teachers too should get such perks. Teachers wearing a different dress as an alternative is not the solution and we do not agree with it.”

Convenience can come under many categories. It could be denims or even torn denims for that matter. “We do not know about the social situation of the individual. So there needs to be a proper definition as to what is expected or what is the norm? Even if you take trousers, buying one will cost you around Rs. 3,000 – 4,000. So that is why we asked that a discount be given to teachers, like what was given to the Executive Grade Officers,” she said.

If you take the education sector there are so many aspects that need to be considered, not just the dress code. There are so many areas that need to be changed such as the syllabus and even the transportation cost. A school van may cost around Rs. 13,000 or 14,000. Parents say that they cannot bear the cost.

“And what about tuition? We know all about the grueling competition that schoolchildren are involved in. As soon as school finishes they go to tuition classes. They leave for school in the morning and sometimes come home at night after their tuition classes. More than relying on what is taught at school, children are now more focused on tuition classes. So what is the solution for this? It is a terrible situation. Now it is the norm. Children cannot enjoy their childhood. These are the questions we need to ask. Instead, we are trying to address the ‘burning question’ as to whether teachers should wear Saree or an alternate form of clothing. There are more important things to discuss. So we would like to see the formal dress code adhered to,” explained Handapangoda.

There is an argument that since dressing informally is accepted in schools in other countries like in the West, why is it not applicable to Sri Lanka? That this is being done in other countries and it is convenient for those teachers.

“I disagree. Just because it is done in other countries does not mean that we too should follow suit. We have our own culture and traditions. We have our own identity. We have a different society and culture. In many other countries in the world, they stick to their own traditions and norms. They do not change their lifestyles just because it is done elsewhere in the world. They are proud of their culture. Sri Lanka is a country with a proud history. Teachers in European countries have their own style because it is part of their culture. Why should we make these comparisons? On the other hand, there is so much to learn from other countries, such as the education system in those countries. That is something we need to look into, as it is worthy of our attention. That is what we should be talking about. Not mimicking their dress code,” pointed out Handapangoda.

She honestly felt that the media should not even be giving this type of publicity to these matters. It is not important. “This furore created by this man, Joseph Stalin, is regrettable. I personally feel that there is an appropriate dress code a teacher should adhere to when standing before her class. I believe that the majority of teachers in Sri Lanka understand this. I personally feel that this is an attempt to bring disrepute to the education system.”

She also stated that she feels that the majority of teachers in this country act with dignity and take pride in their profession.

There is also an idea going around that wearing a Saree in the bus is inconvenient, to which Handapangoda responded – “Did teachers start travelling by bus only recently? I wish to ask whether these people who make this argument understand what it is like wearing a Saree in the bus. I wonder who is spreading these lies. We have been wearing the Saree for so long. Our mothers wore the Saree and travelled in the bus! So what is this argument? This is a joke. There is no inconvenience. It is more secure to wear a Saree in a bus. That is what I feel. Sri Lankan women are used to going in the bus wearing Sarees,” concluded Handapangoda.


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