Of Baju Kurung and School

I read with interest about the viral news/headline for the day about a female student being sent home for wearing baju kurung. I read even with more interest because this happened in Cheras. The sources I read from didn't reveal the school until I stumbled upon this news article by Malay Mail Online (link). Well, of course! Why does it not surprise me that the "Cheras school" happens to be the high school that I had attended for two years?

I have blogged about this matter about baju kurung and school rules four years back, because you know I just finished school, and was full of angst and all. Anyhow, I think I'm calmer now (let's hope so). When I read this, I immediately empathised with the student because I think I understand how she is probably feeling right now. Because I probably have went through something like that but not in such a big scale. I knew it was a matter of time before things get worse and sure it did, as we see now how this issue has now gained national attention.

I found out from fellow friends (ex-students who have siblings in the school) that the rule was enforced most likely because of "indecency" from some students ie. non-Muslim students (or in this case, it's categorized by race - non-Malay students) who wears baju kurung but didn't button up at the top. I know very well there is also another issue with baju kurung: people argue that you can see "everything underneath" the baju kurung. Therefore, it is not unusual that many schools have made it a rule that students who wear baju kurung must wear camisole and skin-colored, normal conventional bra (meaning the bra must be strapped on both shoulders, cannot be the ones that you tie on the neck etc) otherwise they will be penalized.

So, my deduction from this ruling imposed by the school that non-Malays are not allowed to wear baju kurung stemmed from these 2 ideas - that students are not wearing camisole/"proper bra colour" and not buttoning up. Why specifically non-Malay/non-Muslim students are not allowed? Because most likely Malay or Muslim female students have to wear tudung (by the way, it's a strict rule for Muslim female students to wear tudung) so they are covered up in that sense.

From my own experience, it really doesn't matter whether you're a Muslim students. Female students are always under the scrutiny of the school authorities like discipline teachers or prefect. Generally - if I could say this - we are seen as cheapos who are rebellious and desperate to show off, and the school authorities will go lengths to identify and punish these "rebels". I say they will go lengths because when I was in highschool, everyday, I had prefects touching my baju kurung (and I wear baju kurung everyday when I was in form 3-form 5) and checking to see if I wore a camisole. So? The fact of the matter could be this: if you have to touch to know if I wore a camisole, it means that you cannot see what's underneath my baju kurung, isn't it? Simple logic there. Even for bras, the prefects will purposefully press the material of the baju kurung against the students' body to see the colour of the bra. Really? Seriously? And it's not just for those who wear baju kurung, mind you. Students wearing pinafore do not escape this kind of treatment as well.

The problem I have with the issue is that the root of the issue is the uniform itself. Banning students from wearing baju kurung is not the solution because it is a fact that baju kurung is allowed under the national guideline. For one, I really want to know how many students are really not buttoning up their baju kurung. I think the more prevalent issue is about the "exposing" part. It's a tricky situation because the case now appears to be this: The baju kurung that is available in the market is not up schools' expectations, and students who have bought it have become the victim. Does it make sense that they are blamed for the low quality baju kurung and is it fair that students are being accused of "exposing themselves" just because they wore a black bra or didn't wear a camisole?

So, back to this case. I think it is purely unreasonable and disrespectful for the school authorities to suggest that the parents get BR1M money to get pinafore for the student. That is besides the fact that the school authorities are not even willing to meet people halfway even if people are willing to compromise.

The parent is right. He said that he wants to give his daughter good education but now they are occupied with this silly issue. The baju kurung is just one of the many ridiculous rules that have been imposed by schools.

It may be a small matter, but I can tell you it is things like this that create unhealthy and unnecessary stress for students. Imagine if you have to go to school everyday..and everyday, you come under the scrutiny of people who are seemingly just waiting for you to just make one mistake to bring you down. Exaggerating? No, not really. Even if it's not true that people are waiting for students to make mistakes, it is true that the environment in school is in such a way. I felt so stressed in school everyday and really, I hated every moment of it.

I really wished that schools have friendlier environment that is there to nurture students, not schools that are quick to judge and punish students. If only. I don't believe this issue is a racial one although it may seem that way. It is really about the administration system of our public schools and the philosophies that are being uphold within our education system.


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