As you probably have already noticed school has started in New Caledonia for the year. C’est la rentrée! It’s a big deal here, most parents take the morning or day off, there is back to school shopping and the beginning of activities. It’s the end of summer and the beginning of a fresh new year.
This year Seth’s school has introduced uniforms. It’s a new thing in New Cal. Noumea did trial runs a few years ago. At that time some schools just did navy tshirts or blue tshirts with navy or beige shorts. There were no logos or school issued uniforms. Last year, the collège here ( middle school/junior high) introduced a school issued blue polo with your own blue, beige or black shorts, skirt or pants. Late last school year we were given the notice that École Téari would be moving to uniforms as well. Coloured tshirts, a ball cap and for the colder days a polar fleece! The bottoms are anything you want. The uniforms were affordable too! Two choices; Pack 1: 3 tshirts, a hat & fleece or Pack 2: 5 tshirts, a hat and fleece. We decided to purchase both packages so I would have to do laundry twice a week and because 4 year olds tend to ruin tshirts quickly. The total cost for 8 tshirts, 2 hats and 2 fleeces was 10600xpf roughly $135 CAD now but closer to $125 when I ordered them. They came in blue, navy, orange, green, yellow and pink. On the first day of school the tshirts were distributed. The Petite Section ( first year students) were able to purchase theirs this week and they also allowed parents to now purchase single tshirts for 700xpf. Children must begin wearing them on Monday.
Many years ago when I was teaching in New Brunswick I remember the issue of school uniforms being tossed around. There were the for and the against but I remember one if the arguments for the against was it would cost families far too much. I have often thought of that argument in recent months. Here, where the cost of living is high, there are many big families and often family incomes are not high, the uniforms seemed like a relief to most parents. Comparing it to the cost of buying clothing at retail stores, it is less expensive.
The second day of school I asked Seth to go get dressed and told him excitedly that he could wear his new tshirt! He was happy as a lark and spent a few minutes deciding on the colour. When I asked him what he thought of wearing a uniform to school he responded, “well Daddy has to wear his uniform to work and now I wear mine too!” After that answer I started thinking how uniforms connect people, group them and identify them as one. You are wearing high vis yellow and navy in Koné, you work for KNS. You have a colourful tshirt, you go to École Téari, you have a red tshirt, you work at Discount. I wonder if it connects the students as one? You are all students, all part of one big group. I am sure, Seth, at four isn’t thinking about the bigger picture. He is just excited he is going to wear blue today!