Many parents are worried about the quality of new school uniforms following the Competition Tribunal’s ruling that schools will no longer force parents to buy their children’s school clothing at a specific supplier.
A parent, Refiloe Makinta, said although pricing was a problem with many suppliers, she was worried that a cheaper uniform would not last out the years compared with pricier uniforms from previously specified suppliers, and that while many parents were complaining now, they would eventually regret their decision later in the year.
“I’ve tried switching to cheaper shops and, honestly, the uniform never lasts. My son came home one day with his jersey torn, all because they were playing rough. It clearly shows that quality matters most,” she said.
However, another parent, Touch Mawisa, said the agreement between the schools and the specific suppliers meant the parents could not compare prices and this made them feel they did not have a choice.
“It sounds crazy. Many parents I know had to buy their children’s uniform and stationery in town from a specific shop, whereas the schools were in the township and they could easily buy them from a mall close by,” he added.
Meanwhile, custom-made uniform supplier Muaaz Dokrat of Mary’s Outfitters’ said their agreement with some schools was mainly because not every shop catered for all schools, which made some uniforms hard to find, and this was where the suppliers would fit in.
“Since we do give our customers such good value for money they choose to buy from us and, comparatively, our uniforms are well priced,” he said.
The National Association of School Governing Bodies (NASGB) welcomed the Competition Tribunal’s ruling and said the victory could also see a decrease in school-based bullying.
The NASGB’s general secretary, Matakanye Matakanye, said the decision not only hailed a huge victory for poor parents and small businesses, but also for children who have been victims of bullying at school because of their old and torn uniforms.
“The Competition Commission’s aim is to discourage the green contract and suppliers who sabotage parents because they cannot afford to buy their children uniform from those expensive suppliers,” he said.
Matakanye said the Competition Act was trying to make sure that service providers were able to compete fairly with one another.
“In the case of the green contract, you would find there was a contract which started in 1948 and up to now it still is the only service provider,” he added.