School uniforms are expensive but scraping them for home clothes is not an option, says Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga.
The minister said home clothes are a social indicator and would expose which pupils come from rich and poor backgrounds.
Speaking at school governing body (SGB) elections in Ekurhuleni on Monday, the minister announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding by SGB associations and the Competition Commission.
The parties involved agreed to remove exclusive agreements with uniform suppliers and to introduce more generic uniform options.
The memorandum comes after years of investigations into complaints about exorbitant uniform prices. Motshekga said it will curb anti-competitive procurement practices.
“This is very close to my heart. Anybody who comes from a poor background like ourselves or a township will tell you the value of a school uniform.
“Young people are sensitive and if they don’t have designer clothes it embarrasses them. They don’t want to be seen in torn clothes and if they don’t have shoes it’s a big deal and impacts on their image, so they drop out,” she said.
In a statement seen by TimesLIVE, commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said school uniforms contribute to social cohesion, inclusion and school identity. He said overpricing them can cause exclusion.
Bonakele said the investigations have been ongoing for more than a decade.
Working with the basic education department, the commission was able to guide schools and other stakeholders about the procurement of school uniforms.
Bonakele said among complaints from parents was that schools had recommended exclusive uniform suppliers which overpriced uniforms and made them unaffordable.
“We found the exclusive arrangements between schools and uniform suppliers were pervasive across the country and made uniforms unnecessarily expensive and increasingly unaffordable for many South Africans.
“The commission also found several schools were overly prescriptive in their uniform choices. This limited the choices and bargaining power of parents who were beholden to a small number of suppliers.”
Bonakele said the agreement entered into involves four school groups and two of the largest manufactures and suppliers of school uniforms.