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Stop populist remarks on the hemline debate

By - | July 21st 2012

When students at Rwathia Girls in Murang’a last week held a demonstration demanding to be allowed to wear shorter skirts, perhaps they did not know that they were going to spark a controversy. Many have supported the fight against the rising hemlines, while there have been those who feel that students should be free to wear the skirts they want.

And on Thursday, Education Minister Mutula Kilonzo added his voice to the controversy and appeared to support the Rwathia students’ demand. The students had complained their skirts were too long and ugly. Speaking in Kericho County on Thursday, Mr Mutula said institutions should come up with comfortable and modern attires for students. He said girls in secondary schools should dress to look modern and not nun-like.

The issue of a rising hemline is equally a subject of heated debate in institutions of learning in other countries. For example, British schools have been struggling against what they term as the “hemline creep”, an age-old phenomenon where girls cinch their uniform skirts at the waist to shorten them to more revealing lengths (usually once they are within a safe distance from home).

Tired of rebuking pupils, some schools have taken drastic measure of banning skirts altogether, in favour of trousers in what they call “the nuclear option”. While the ban is meant to prevent the sexualisation of girls at increasingly younger ages, many say trousers do not necessarily ensure modesty. In Kenya, the battle of trying to regulate what students wear may have just started. Mutula’s ministry and other education stakeholders must approach the issue soberly and desist from making populist statements.



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