By: Samuel Edward Bruce
In the vibrant tapestry of Ghana’s educational landscape, one element stands out as a symbol of tradition, unity, and identity – the school uniform. Over the years, school uniforms in Ghana have evolved, but their significance remains unchanged, reflecting its rich history and cultural diversity.
School uniforms are more than just clothing; they are statements of commitment to education.
They don’t only serve as means of identification but also tell a story of a country’s history and social progress.
According to historians, missionary schools indoctrinating indigenes during the Gold Coast era are said to be responsible for this phenomenon.
Since then, the traditions of school uniforms have been welcomed by society.
Empirically, Ghana’s school uniforms have been evolving since the post-colonial periods, but what seems to cause their evolution cannot be clearly identified. However, as it seems, educational reforms are subtly playing a significant role in this regard.
Due to the prowess of educational reforms, Ghana’s educational narrative is constantly being reshaped.
These educational reforms indirectly reshape the aesthetic value of school uniforms which help in giving schools an identity.
Being at the receptive end of these significant shifts, public, mission, and private schools in Ghana have over the years, been compelled to comply with directives of new educational reforms from the apex, which is, the Ghana Education Service (GES).
In an exclusive interview with some senior citizens to ascertain the impact of educational reforms on school uniforms, it was revealed that educational reforms helped alter the outlook of their school uniforms during their schooling days.
Irene Ahamadzie, 44, recalls her school uniform in a Catholic institution during the 1980s. “What I wore during that period is so different from now. In my time we wore khaki-made school uniforms which had a purple belt matching its purple coloured lapels to compliment the dark-brown khaki pinafore”, she revealed.
Mr. Emmanuel Odartey Mills, 69, recalls his time in primary school wearing his school uniform in Mamprobi Market 1 school. “During my school days I remember wearing all khaki-made school uniform which is very different from the ones these basic school students are now wearing”, Mr. Mills recounted.
Janet Esi Nyarko, 56, who was a student in 1979, also recalls wearing a red and blue khaki school uniform as a student in a Presbyterian basic school in Accra. “It seems that every school in my time had their own school uniform. In my school, I was wearing the red and blue khaki school uniform whilst my little brother who attended a Methodist basic school wore a yellow and blue school uniform”, she disclosed.
In the 21st century, Ghana’s school reforms are not just issuing policies that adjust the educational curriculum and welfare of students but are also championing the cause of instilling a sense of responsibility amongst students with school uniforms.
Apt example of this narrative is the introduction of new school uniforms for junior high schools of all public schools during the 2019/2020 academic year by the Ghana Education Service (GES) in order to make the students embrace the duty of responsibility as young adults.
This uniform replaced the iconic school uniform popularly known as the “kokonte ne nkatikwan” uniform, which has been in existence for over 30years by junior high students of all public schools.
Another example of the narrative, is the introduction of new school uniforms for form three students of St.Peter’s Secondary school in Nkwatia, Eastern Region during the 2009 academic year to not only distinguish them from their juniors, but also to remind them of the burden of responsibility upon their shoulders.
In this new era of evolving school uniforms, the future holds promise, rife with innovation. Schools are now exploring various fabrics, such as the durable and comfortable cotton-polyester blend. These fabrics have the potential to redefine the concept of school uniforms in Ghana, making them even more functional and comfortable for students.
The fusion of tradition, innovation, and comfort in school uniforms represents a commitment to providing students with the best tools for their educational journey.
With this significant transformation in sight, Ghana’s school uniforms need to strike the right balance between tradition and modernity therefore, it is imperative for Ghana’s school administrators to incorporate the nation’s cultural symbolisms, colours, patterns, motifs to reflect the nation’s diverse cultural and educational heritage into school uniforms.
Ghanaian cultural symbolisms such as the “adinkra” symbols which play a very important role in helping tell Ghana’s story to the entire world from the cultural perspective can help moot for this cause due to their unique storytelling prowess.
Adinkra symbols like “akoma” and “adinkrahene” which signify patience and leadership respectively can help instill the sense of morality and charisma in students to become goal-oriented and upright members of society when the idea of cultural symbolisms is incorporated into school uniforms.
In countries like Bhutan and Vietnam, the phenomenon is very visible and well grounded since schools have been mandated to adopt the traditional outfits as school uniforms. The Bhutanese traditional outfit, “gho and khira” and the “Ao Dai” of Vietnam are a staple school uniform for unisex and female students respectively.
It is believed that these uniforms were introduced to promote national pride and instill in them, modesty in a refining modernizing world.
According to studies, these two countries are amongst nations of the world with most patriotic citizens.
Considering the impact of Ghana’s school reforms on its school uniforms over the years, can new reforms be introduced to promote the nation’s rich cultural heritage in its school uniforms?
To this end, Head of Operations at Rissemma Company Limited, an outfit responsible for driving the modernization agenda for Ghanaian schools, Mr. Anthony Ashitei Zigah is mooting for the new educational reforms to front the cause of modernizing Ghana’s school uniforms by inculcating the nation’s cultural values in them.
“Culture plays an important role so far as education is concerned. Symbols, colours, patterns, motifs tend to give visibility to an invisible idea or a set of beliefs hence the need to incorporate them in our [school] uniforms. This reminds students of their cultural and national heritage and reassures them to be confident, courageous, and impactful in their pursuit of excellence”.
He believes that by government embedding the nation’s cultural symbolic elements to redefine the aesthetic worth of its school uniforms; it would help its educational agenda to meet its target by 2030 by attracting more students.
“The significance of this incorporation will affect the psychological esteem of students thereby helping government to meet its objective of transforming education with its Educational Transformative Agenda by 2030 by way of engaging a wider number of children to be educated”, he explained.
With these innovations on the horizon, Ghana’s school reforms should be poised to not only adapt to the changing times but also honour tradition.