Wearing traditional attire in school: Burden or a blessing?

One fine Friday morning, a teacher (in government school) noticed that a regular student, Kebom (name changed) was absent. The next day, when enquired about it, Kebom replied, “Sir, I don’t have traditional coat and at present my parents can’t afford it. So, even when I didn’t want to, I had to skip my classes yesterday.” This is Kebom’s story and there are many such Keboms.
The recent order of the government of Arunachal Pradesh to allow all the school students of all the government schools of the state to wear traditional attire every Friday of the week also reiterated by the apex student body, All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) is a decision which we need to relook into.
The purpose behind this order is noble, that is, to appreciate, preserve, and promote our rich cultures and traditions so as to enable cultural enrichments as well national integration as mandated under NEP 2020. However, it also comes along with certain lapses that can cause unwanted collateral damage.
In government schools, most of the children belong from economically weaker sections where the school motivates the parents to send their children to school by providing midday meals, free uniforms and textbooks, no capitation fees, etc. As we all are aware, in the markets a single traditional coat costs Rs 2,500 (minimum) and a single galey costs Rs 2,000 (minimum). Therefore, such order by the government may put more pressure upon the parents as the children unaware of their economic status may put pressure on them. Eventually, such pressure can become a burden upon the poor parents. Even if such orders are not mandatory and the school is flexible about it, this has the potential of creating a discriminatory environment where you will be able to pinpoint the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ even among the poor and the very goal of inclusivity of NEP-2020 can get compromised.
Simply passing the order in government schools will not enable us to achieve the aim but a logistic, inclusive, systematic structure needs to be planned out before implementing such reforms in school curriculum. As a starter, the government can develop a similar mechanism in line with that of Free School Uniform (RTE Act, 2009). This can be done by establishing a vocational institute in each district headquarters in collaboration with the State Council of Educational Research & Training (SCERT) and the textile & handicraft department, which will not only provide training but also manufacture and supply the required traditional attires. Ultimately, such vocational institute will also generate employment and boost the local economy of the state as well as promote our tradition and culture, eventually motivating our people to learn and earn by preserving our age-old traditions and cultures.
Any government measure, especially with regard to education, should always try to lessen the burden of the underprivileged section and not increased it; otherwise the very idea of inclusiveness, which the NEP-2020 stands for, will be futile. Hoping that the government will look deep into it and develop such inclusive mechanism that will not be a burden but a blessing for students like Kebom.
Keyom Doni,
MEd (3rd Semester),
Hills College of Teacher Education, Lekhi