When events coincide some call it happenstance, others say it is signs and wonders, while some say the stars are aligning. Reality is whatever name you choose to apply to the situation, when separate and distinct things occur either at the same time, it should always cause us to pause and wonder if a greater meaning is intended.
On Monday, September 12 the Barbados Meteorological Services issued a weather bulletin headlined: Heat Information Statement for Barbados. The statement read: “Very warm conditions in Barbados are expected to persist throughout the month of September and the greater part of October. Maximum temperatures across the island have been peaking between 32 degrees Celsius and 34 degrees Celsius, particularly in the urban areas, which is normal during this period.”
The Met office went on to outline key things that should be done in order to ensure good health and wellness during the extremely hot period.
Days later on Wednesday, September 14, the Ministry of Education granted a school uniform ease for those who have been unable to secure them due to the shortage on the island.
Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training Kay McConney said that following complaints about the unavailability of either pre-made uniforms or uniform fabric, uniform requirements would be adjusted for now.
“With sensitivity to your challenges in this circumstance, I wish to give some ease. The Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training has decided to relax the regulations to our school uniform policy until September 30th, 2022, after which it will be reviewed.
“This means that if your child is unable to wear the full school uniform, new or re-used, from the first day of school on September 19th, he or she will be allowed to dress in a manner appropriate for school in a plain-coloured T-shirt or a plain-coloured polo shirt and a jeans pants. Note that this relaxation is for a limited time, until uniform fabrics are available,” the education minister said.
Minister McConney pointed to several factors in the supply chain that have contributed to the delay in uniform fabrics reaching Barbados, including the intermittent shutdown of several overseas factories where the fabric is made and the slow consolidation of shipments due to transportation challenges between multiple cities.
“Importers of uniform fabric, manufacturers of uniforms, and retailers have stated that there have been delays in the delivery of fabric to the island, which means that manufacturing has slowed down; available stock has been depleted so certain colours and sizes are unavailable; and dressmakers and tailors have been put under greater pressure to sew uniforms for which they cannot get the correct fabric to finish by next Monday,” she added.
Today, co-Managing Director of the Barbados Industries Limited Dean Straker, Managing Director of Woolworth Martin Bryan and Managing Director of Abeds Stores Eddie Abed speaking to the media confirmed the supply and shipping challenges they all face.
And while many students will not experience that tradition of being decked out in back-to-school’s finest, especially for those entering nursery, primary or secondary school for the first time, some can count themselves lucky this toss.
With temperatures peaking between 32 degrees Celsius and 34 degrees Celsius daily, the option of a polo shirt and jeans seems way more palatable and practical than an inside shirt, ties, overalls, shoes and socks.
Truth is that many of our uniform designs are not easy to wear from 7:30 a.m./8 a.m. to 2 p.m./3 p.m. when we record “normal” temperatures furthermore in extremely hot conditions.
Having graduates from schools across Barbados working in our newsroom, we are acutely aware of the history and sentimentality that the tradition of wearing uniforms carries. We know too well of the school cultures and the “ties” that bind, making many of us proud of the institution in which we were once enrolled.
However, we are also cognisant that the times we are in are ever-changing. Every opportunity that presents itself, our Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley speaks about climate change and its adverse effects on Caribbean countries. Weather patterns are changing and will continue to change.
The summers are becoming hotter and hotter with each passing year. Nighttime, which usually provides an ease from the sun, is becoming more and more humid. And traditionally cold months are now warm.
Added to this the reality of the economic challenge for many remains and is now compounded in a COVID-19 environment.
Recently, Barbados TODAY reported comments made by a mother of two who received a much-needed donation from the Eden Lodge Youth Charitable Trust.
“I want to say thank you to the Eden Lodge Youth Charitable Trust. These school uniforms will go a long way. It’s difficult for a lot of parents like myself during these times…after the pandemic a lot of people are unemployed and there are a lot of single mothers out there like myself so it’s very difficult,” she said, adding it could cost her $1000.00 or more to be able to afford books, shoes and uniforms.
“I can’t do like the rest and go into town and shop. I buy uniforms piece by piece … so yes [I’m very grateful,” the mother said.
Maybe it is time to have public discourse about a revised Uniform Policy. Maybe the wearing of uniforms can be a blended approach as was teaching. Traditional uniforms can be worn three days and the school-branded polos the other two days.
Whatever the outcome, we believe it is a discussion worth having if not now, sometime in the not-so-distant future.