Saying that parents should have more choice in where to buy their children’s uniforms, the Supreme Education Council has told Qatar schools to relax their clothing sales requirements.
The new instructions came in the form of a circular to private schools and kindergartens, the Peninsula reports.
It prohibits schools from exclusively tying up with retailers or suppliers to sell uniforms, and has been met with relief by many parents who said they are looking forward to saving their money.
The cost and availability of school uniforms has been a long-standing source of frustration for many parents, as many schools across Doha require pupils to wear school-branded dresses or shirts that are only available in specific shops or are sold through the school.
Often, these branded items are considerably more expensive than generic ones that can be bought on the wider market.
According to the SEC’s new circular, schools would be allowed to set the color and design of the uniform, and can provide a logo that parents can have stitched on to shirts or dresses, but they can no longer mandate that parents buy specially produced items with pre-sewn school emblems.
They are also not allowed to prescribe particular shades of color or special quality material that is not available in the wider market, the Peninsula reports.
Additionally, the circular states that schools cannot have any financial interests related to uniforms or sell the uniforms on campus.
The new rules are apparently a bid to break up a perceived monopoly between some schools and particular school uniform stores in Qatar. It follows a similar anti-monopoly directive issued by Qatar’s Ministry of Economy and Commerce last year.
At that time, the ministry asked the SEC to stop schools from selling uniforms from on-campus shops by September 2014, saying the practice was in violation of Law No (19) of 2006 on protection of competition and prevention of monopoly.
And two years ago, the SEC responded to complaints from some parents about the cost of school uniforms by ordering all independent (state-funded) schools to allow uniforms to be made or bought from any shop.
School suppliers Zaks on the Salwa Road is the sole outlet for many school uniforms in Qatar. Several schools here also continue to sell uniforms through onsite shops, despite the recent apparent ban of this practice.
No one from Zaks was available for comment.
And some private schools, such as Park House English School, told Doha News it had yet to receive the latest SEC directive.
The school’s director, Niall Brennan, said that until it did, uniforms would continue to be sold in the not-for-profit shop on campus, which is run by the school’s Parent Teacher Association.
He added that ensuring pupils wore proper uniform is an important part of the school’s ethos:
“Uniforms are a part of the learning process and teach discipline and conformity which are essential building blocks. As a top tier school we invest heavily in all of the building blocks, including our uniforms. These span not only what the children wear in class but also on the sports field and in our other activities, be it diving to go-karting, dancing to karate.”
Meanwhile, the Ideal Indian School confirmed to Doha News that it had received the circular, and was considering its response. The school currently requires parents to buy uniforms from textiles store Raymonds, which carries the school-approved material and logos.
However, the school drew criticism from its parents when it announced at the end of September that it was changing its uniform color and design and that a new beige and brown uniform would be available for purchase through the school in March next year.
The school official could not confirm how the new SEC directive would affect these plans.
On Twitter today, many Qatar parents welcomed the news that they would be given a wider choice on where to buy uniforms:
How do you feel about the new directive? Thoughts?