Tunisian schoolgirls rebel against having to wear uniform


BIZERTE Dec 26 (TNS): In Tunisian high schools, the dress code is not uniform. Actually, it is: but only for girls. Boys can wear what they like, and now the girls are up in arms.

One morning, instead of turning up for class wearing the regulation navy blue smock, a defiant group of adolescent girls came to school in white T-shirts instead, demanding an “end to discrimination”.

At the elite Bizerte public school in the north, as is the case in most high schools in the North African country, pupils have to sign a school rule stipulating that wearing a uniform applies to girls only.

One day in September, supervisors reminded senior female students who did not abide by this rule that if they did not wear the smock, a loose-fitting, long gilet, they would be sent home.

Ironically, the warning was passed on during a philosophy class — about the human body.

This “injustice” inspired many of the girls to take to social networks and vent their feelings, 18-year-old Siwar Tebourbi told AFP.

She said the girls agreed to take collective action from the following day “to demand that this discrimination must cease”.

So dozens duly turned up for class, wearing white. Several boys did the same, in solidarity with their classmates.

How did the school authorities react? By saying nothing. Thus was born the “Manish Labsetha” (“I won´t wear it”) campaign, referring to the offending garment.

‘A terrible message’

It was the culmination of a dispute that had been brewing for years.

Outraged that the navy blue was imposed on everyone in primary and secondary school but was compulsory in high school only for girls, pupils regularly appeared without it, risking expulsion or seeing their parents summoned.