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Should dress code be enforced on Nigerian campuses?

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Dress Code by definition is a set of rules specifying the correct manner of dress while on the premises of an institution or specifying what manner of dress is prohibited.  It is a written, and more often, unwritten rules with regard to clothing. Over the past few years, the school Dress Code has become an increasingly common policy in many countries of the world. As opposed to the requirements of students to wear specific clothing in the form of uniforms, Dress Code provides guidelines through which students are allowed to wear any clothing that meets the school’s(or any institution’s) requirements, whether they pertain to colour, style or cut of the clothing.

Consequently, School Dress Code is designed to create a certain admirable atmosphere in a school while providing students with a bit of freedom of expression through their wardrobe. Also, Dress Codes are created to provide general clothing rules and guidelines within which every student is expected to demonstrate discretion and good judgment. Like any other rules, it is the responsibility of every student to conform to the Dressing Code of their institution. Nevertheless, while many students applaud the demand of school Dress Codes as a way to ensure that they (students) are properly dressed, others question the importance or necessity of Dress Codes, they believe that it is a way of trampling upon their Fundamental Human Rights.

Taking a critical look at this issue of Dress Code, one may also opine that Dress Codes should not be enforced on Nigerian campuses due to some reasonable factors. One of such reasons is financial capacity. If, for instance, certain form of Dress Code that is expensive is enforced, students from poor background may not be able to abide by it and this will be inhumane if such students are punished based on this. Another prominent factor is the issue of religion. Since the Nigerian Constitution allows freedom of religion, enforcing Dress Code (that is contrary to the teachings of some religions by schools that are also under the Nigerian Constitution) may cause serious religious crises.

However, Dress Code carries along so many benefits. For instance, Dress Code promotes a more serious school atmosphere which ensures academic growth and development and also fosters good behaviour. In fact, Dress Code has been proven to enhance students’ achievement by encouraging them to concentrate more on their studies and less on their wardrobe. A de-emphasis on clothing through the enforcement of Dress Code can also save money for other productive uses like buying useful textbooks and attending productive workshops and seminars as there will be less or no pressure to keep up with expensive trends and fashions. Moreover, Dress Codes on Nigerian campuses can also help to reduce social conflict that may be associated with appearance. For instance, it can help in identifying cultists who will often put on different clothing from the normal accepted standard. Studies have also shown that a School Dress Code can help in eradicating or reducing, at least, the prevalence of certain bad behaviours that are often expressed through wardrobe such as violence and promiscuity.

With the aforementioned benefits of Dress Code, one can safely opine that its advantages overshadow the disadvantages—and even some of the disadvantages can be avoided through proper planning. To this end, I will posit at this juncture that Dress Code should be enforced on Nigerian campuses. The Dress Code, however, should be relaxed; it should not be too strict so that that it will not lead to making life difficult for students. Students’ financial statuses as well as religious obligations should be taken into consideration when forming Dress Codes.

Within the ambit of moderation and modesty, the Dress Codes should allow students to wear what they want leaving them with a sense of choice and expression. Enforcing Dress Codes is not synonymous to making decrees, so it should not be seen as a way of trampling upon students’ Fundamental Human Rights as some have opined. Rather it is a way of making sure that the rights are not abused. While students will always find a way of expressing themselves through clothing, imposing boundaries will prevent them from resorting to extremes that can sometimes lead to undesirable consequences such as mistaken identity, rape (through sexually provocative dressing), e. t. c. Dress Code is a way of teaching students the importance of a respectable appearance which is a lesson that can positively ensure self-respect and self-esteem, after all, one is addressed the way he/she is dressed.

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