Winter uniform sends shivers

The new winter uniform of a reputed ICSE-affiliated coeducational school in the capital is apparently giving its students a runny nose.

St Francis School in Harmu introduced bluish-grey blazers and sweaters for its 3,500-odd students from this session, technically called denim melange. Earlier, students wore brown.

The catch is this. The shop "recommended" by the school, Dress Wala at Gopal Complex, Kutchery, can't supply so many blazers and sweaters at one go. As the new uniforms are in short supply, parents are claiming their wards are running the risk of catching cold. They add they are forced to send children without adequate warm clothing in the morning cold ' classes start at 7.20am ' to maintain "school discipline".

Parents are also saying that the school uniform boasted half shirts, so they could not equip their wards with full-sleeved sweaters or body warmers as innerwear. Exposed hands of students are numbed by the chilly breeze during morning commute and on school premises throughout, parents complain.

A father said the school was told that Dress Wala was incapable of supplying uniforms to all students but St Francis did not work out an alternative solution. "The truth is, as any parent will tell you, that we are afraid of the school management's unbending attitude," he said.

Principal Father Manoj was not available for his comment as he was out of station on Thursday. But vice-principal Father Shaji Alappurath told The Telegraph that some parents were "trying to malign the school's image".

"The blazer prescribed by the school can be purchased from anywhere. There is no fixed shop. As the dress code is new there is a crisis. We are allowing students to wear the old brown sweaters and blazers. At the same time, I have asked them to take prior permission to maintain discipline."

However, very few sported brown sweaters on Thursday morning. A parent said a student could wear the old uniform only if the management was told he or she was unwell.

"Teachers are reluctant if children want to wear brown sweaters. My daughter caught a cold and was absent for three days," said a mother.

The Telegraph asked parents why they did not buy grey blazers and sweaters from shops elsewhere to which they claimed they could not find the exact shade and style prescribed by the school.

While there may be some truth to this, it is also true that parents can ensure their wards are shielded from cold en route to school and back, wearing any sweater they please.

Jharkhand Avivavak Manch president Ajay Rai tried to give a balanced opinion.

"I visited the school today. The management has taken serious note of the problem. They said they were allowing students to wear old brown sweaters and blazers out of health consideration. School authorities told me they had given around 250 sweaters to needy students," he said.

But the real surprise was this. When asked why the uniform colour was changed in the first place, the vice-principal cited parental request.

None among parents present outside campus agreed. "Who wants to invite bother and cost?" a lady wondered.