This week we talked about ‘cheating wives’, and how good at it they are… and then ‘sex for grades’ where female students manipulate exam results by exploiting their bodies. So today we look lower down the age scale at schoolgirls, this time not indulging in anything lewd, but nevertheless getting their own way by protesting. The protest was loud enough to be heard by the national newspapers and education minister Mutula Kilonzo, and as a result ended happily for the girls.
Kenyan students have been known to go on strike for the slightest reason; if it’s not exam fever, (especially when it comes to the much dreaded mocks) its calling for a transfer of a head teacher they deem incompetent. or even ‘paraffin’ taste in school food… you name it. But the recent strike by student’s of Ruathia Girls in Murang’a a few weeks ago, in protest of long skirts that the administration was imposing on them, was a new one to add to the list of strikes in Kenyan schools.
The strike therefore made headlines in the Kenyan media, and sentiments made by education minister Mutula Kilonzo, addressing the same a few weeks later, elicited mixed reactions from the public, most of whom felt he was advocating in favor of miniskirts, hence lowering morality in schools.
“Why should you dress a school girl like a nun?” wondered the minister. A phrase that earned him his share of bashing especially from the clergy, who demanded for an apology from the minister, alleging that his statement was degrading the nuns. But with all due respect this correspondent wonders, wasn’t that just a fair comment? Isn’t the nuns’ dress code part of what distinguishes them?
The debate went on for a whole two weeks at least giving the country an aura of change from the “come baby come” politics that had filled all corners of Kenya following the launch of the much awaited political book; Peeling Back The Mask by Mr Miguna Miguna.
Some of the reasons cited by Mutula’s critics on the miniskirts issue, if not most of them, were just ridiculous if not lame. Take for instance the education stakeholders at the coast who argued that wearing miniskirts will affect education and increase rape and teacher student relationships. Really? There can never been an excuse for rape and someone is yet to prove to us how a long skirt is able to circumvent a teacher/student relationship.
This correspondent doesn’t advocate indecent dressing in Kenyan schools but is of the opinion that the whole miniskirts thing was just a small issue that was thrown out of proportion by the Kenyan media. To most of us, what we know is that students of Ruathia girls went on strike because they wanted miniskirts for uniform, right? What we don’t know is that the skirt issue was not the only reason they went home, key among them was thinning food rations, and the deputy head teacher high -handedness, in addition to the introduction of the purple and outrageously long skirts as the new school uniform.
If you had the opportunity to get a glimpse of the skirts in question when the education minister called for a press conference to demonstrate on the skirts, then you will agree with me that the girls had a reason to protest. The demonstration finally brought the skirts’ debate to an end but sadly portrayed a picture of a country with lots of energy and time to channel in frivolous issues, probably some of this energy is what the Koreans had observed when thy coined that ‘offensive slogan’ when hey launched their flights from Nairobi.