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Opinions of Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Columnist: Awuni, Manasseh Azure

A Dress Code for GIJ Students?

It is almost four years now, but I still remember it very vividly. As vividly as the day I broke my code. It was a virgin morning but the sinister rays of the sun that shot through the cloudless sky was enough premonition of what to expect – a blistering afternoon. After a few handshakes and introductions which did not go beyond “which school?” and “Journalism or PR?” the time was up. As pious and humble as Catholics queuing before the alter to take the holy communion, we were led into the Diploma 1 B Lecture hall, where we (the current Level 400 mainstream students) began our turbulent journey in the Ghana Institute of Journalism.

Then the school authorities entered.

They were the Acting Rector, the Acting Vice-Rector, the Acting Registrar, the Acting Deputy Registrar, the Acting … In fact everybody was introduced as the acting this or acting that, and one of us was later to introduce himself somewhere as an Acting Student of GIJ.
The ritual that morning was christened Orientation. As curious as children learning to read ABCD, we listened to every word that escaped the lips of the school authorities with exaggerated attention. Ceaselessly nodding like agama lizards, we hung on their words – and some of the words parted their lips by accident – as though it were the gospel of salvation being preached to someone destined for the gallows. Trust freshers for that!
Each of them did not miss the opportunity to remind us for the umpteenth time how lucky we were to have been chosen among the thousands who had applied to study in the nation’s premier communication training institution. I considered myself the luckiest of all. Back in Krachi Senior High School, it was almost unimaginable that one day I would sit in the same class with students of Achimota, Mfantsipim, Presec, Gey Hey and the big names we used to hear and shudder. A common theme ran through all the messages.
Here, we do this. We don’t do that.
One message I still remember very well was the one the Dean of Students, Mr. Frimpong Manson gave. He was much particular about the dress code of students. “GIJ is not just like any university,” he told us. “This is both an academic and a professional institution and dressing must be part of our professional lives.” He spoke against all forms of indecent dressing. He mentioned that it was unacceptable to sport T-shirts and my guilt-ridden conscience told me that he was referring to me. I was sporting a Presbyterian Junior Youth T-shirt over a pair of jeans (not faded) and a pair of white boot. I felt embarrassed, to say the least. But I must confess it had a great impact on me. And all my colleagues. But I was later to realize that the impact of the Dean of Students’ words on us could not travel beyond our matriculation day.
And the dress code of some students can be said to be anything but professional. Come with me to visit just a few the students with whom I listened to Mr. Frimpong Manso’s admonition. Let’s start with the descendants of Eve.
Adjoa is wearing a pair of jeans trousers. She is endowed with what distinguishes the African woman from the rest of the flat-bottomed women of the world. And this jeans trousers holds her tightly like the fitting point of the capsule. When Adjoa is standing, there’s no problem. But unlike the capsule, she must bend and even sit. That is where the trouble lies. I don’t think she intentionally want to show us her metallic and glittery beads.
Abena is wearing a skirt but she is not wearing a skirt. It is not a full skirt. They say it is mini. She is stable and you’re comfortable if you’re not moved by her enticing thighs, which she so much loves to advertise. But when a gentle air blows, you’ll have to ask God for forgiveness. As if that is not enough, when she sits in the lecture hall, she likes to cross her legs. Imagine that!
You’ll bet with your balls that what Akua is wearing is very decent if you’re following her. But let her turn and face you. She has scooped the two anthills on her chest like cassava mounds. (Yam mounds are straight and pointed.) But that’s not enough. What she is wearing has hidden only her nipples. The rest is there for you and I to admire. She has even oiled it and you can straighten your bow tie, if you happen to be standing in front of her. I once heard a guy compliment her.
“Wow! I like your breasts! Very beautiful!” he said.
“Thank you,” she said, her face twitching with a mixture pride and smiles.
Yaa, is wearing something like a singlet. Many years ago my sisters used to wear it under their school uniforms. But Yaa is wearing it alone. The halters of this singlet have different colours from that of her bra. And though all the halters are showing, they do not meet, except the many junctions where they cross. Then I remember those days when at funerals, our mothers used to call each other aside and push the halters of their bras inside. It was like a disgusting sign of indecency to let them show. It was but not is!
Today is Friday and Afua is in her kaba. The cloth is very beautiful. She tells her friends this one is from Holland. But its nationality is not my problem. My problem is how she has directed the seamstress to cut the back of the slit so deep into her… (Sorry, I nearly said asshole). The cleavage of the Kaba is too provocative, to say the least. When I look at her chest, my mind goes to two soft balls of fufu lying side by side in a small apotowua. They are very tempting!
What Ama is wearing is not exposing anything but it is exposing everything. Her shirt is too tight and so is her pair of trousers. So tight is it that you can see the position and exact shape of everything.
Akosua? Let me stop here before I’m sued. In the lecture hall, I usually sit in front and the lady who sits behind me in my current class is called Akosua. And the lady from Obosomase does not fit into what I was about to say?
But do the descendants of Adam have any problem when it comes to dressing?
They do, but we usually overlook it. While the descendants of Eve’s dressing can be indecently enticing, that of the descendants of Adam is appallingly nauseating.
The boxer shorts he so much likes to advertise to the world will make you throw up if the food you’re eating is not very peppery, like those adored by worshipers of akpeteshie. The jeans he’s wearing is so large that it can be used to sew agbada for a Nigerian head of state, but he likes with either a very loose belt or no belt. Then in a bid to keep it in balance, he keeps holding his balls as if they were threatening to fall. Under that jeans trousers are bathroom slippers. He’s come for lectures. Sometimes he prefers to wear what they call three-quarters, on top of which sits a T-shirt a palm wine tapper who takes pride in job will not wear to work. At other times, too, the jeans is either faded or “torn.” Torn not due to old age, but torn from the factory. Its fashion! When I talked about one worn by a Level 400 student a few days ago, he told me he knew my problem. “You were born and bred in the village so your eyes are yet to open,” he said.
So where are we heading for?
Students of tertiary institutions are of age and it sounds insulting to tell them what to wear. It is against their human rights. So in order not to be unpopular, school authorities and lecturers discuss among themselves but take no action. The students on the other hand feel untouchable. But truth is that not everyone in society can tolerate such absurd and weird expression of human rights, especially no-nonsense judges.
Our elders say a child can play with its mother’s breast, but not with its father’s testicles.
That is why recently a Presiding Circuit Court Judge, Mr. D.E.K. Daketsey, threw a GIJ student out of his court for indecent dressing. The students were given a court reporting assignment and they went to the court only for one to be thrown out after some embarrassing comments from the judge. A lot of such cases may go on every day, but this one was carried by the April 1 edition of the The Spectator. The concluding part of the report which was filed by The Spectator’s Norman Cooper reads:
“He asked, ‘As a journalist, is this kind of dress you would wear to interview a Minister of State or your pastor?’
“Judge Daketsey said the shabby dressing of the GIJ student should send a signal to the institution to emphasise the need for students of the school to be taught on the principles of good dressing to put the school in a good public image.”
So does it mean we have not good public image? Perhaps the judge has seen many of them!
I’m told there was a copy of the report on the main notice board and in the newsroom of Adom FM. And I’m sure they may not be alone. I have also been on practical attachment with some GIJ students and editors have always complained about our dressing. If authorities of the GIJ will conduct a simple research on the how outsiders perceive the Institute, especially those organisations which accept our students on internship, the result may be worse than what we think.
“So what should we do? Should we introduce a dress code?” the Dean of Students asked me when the report in the newspaper hit our notice boards. We were busily organising our SRC Week so I said I would get back to him later. I’m yet to go. But I’m sure such an attempt will put GIJ in the media for some time. Human rights activists like Nana Oye Lithur will condemn it. She did that when authorities of the Central University College introduced a dress code for their students. But the question I ask those human rights lawyers is simple.
Why are students of the Ghana School of Law forced to wear uniforms? (Theirs is more than just a dress code). Don’t they know their rights? Or are they trying to tell us that Law is better and more decent than any profession? That it is unacceptable for would-be lawyers to be indecent but acceptable for journalists who are supposed to be the conscience of society to walk about practically naked in the name of freedoms and human rights? Or are journalists inferior to lawyers?
Which proud lawyer, irrespective of how the jargons of those dead languages have gone into his head, will look down on Anas Aremeyaw Anas? George Sydney Abugri? Peggy Ama Donkor? Kwaku Sakyi Addo? Or Kofi Akordor? The list is endless! They are journalists!
Journalism is not cheap but the image of journalists is sinking faster and deeper than the police. But who is to blame? Mahatma Gandhi once said that “no one can make you inferior without your consent.”
The student-journalist may decide to dress like one of those virus-infested nocturnal creatures lurking around circle praying to prey on debauched men. It is their right and they are entitled to dress the way they like. But when such a student comes face- to-face with a decently dressed Law or Medical student, he or she will definitely need no third party to judge their worth by merely looking at their appearances.
Perhaps authorities of GIJ do not have to go far to say what type of dressing is decent. The more intelligent ones will tell you decency is subjective. It is true! To those with dead conscience, everything is subjective. But the authorities of GIJ can still be subjective objectively. It is just a matter of asking the mainstream students to look at how the Top-Up students dress. They have gone through life and apart from just one or two of them, there cannot be a better way of dressing decently and professionally how they appear.
In the words of Mr. Frimpong Manso, dressing is a culture. It is a way of life. And as professional students dressing must be learnt together with the profession. It is also said that how you dress determines how you will be addressed.

One does not have to dress expensively like a Hindu Goddess to be decent. The normal obroniwawu is enough.

So? What do you think?

The boy from Bongo does not say he’s a paragon of virtues. Neither is he echoing the stance of the GIJ SRC on the dress code for GIJ students. I’m just thinking aloud. And since thinking aloud is allowed, I’m Thinking Allowed, as Elizabeth Ohene would put it.

Credit: Manasseh Azure Awuni [www.maxighana.com] Email: azureachebe2@yahoo.com The writer is the SRC President of the Ghana Institute of Journalism and Press and Information Secretary of the Northern Students’ Union (NSU). To read more of his writings, visit www.maxighana.com