School Uniform: Malwai

A British urban expatriate has provided the following report on school uniforms in Malawi. He cautions that he has focused on urban schools and cannot hope to speak for the 90 percent of Malawians who live in rural areas, where different standards apply.

Primary Schools

Most of the primary-age boys wear simple cotton drill short pants with elastizied waists without flies or belt loops.

Government schools

Matching bush shirt and shorts in either greyor khaki cotton. No other items of clothing seem to be stipulated asuniform. Quite a few boys go barefoot, and those in shoes and socks wearwhatever comes to hand. Because quite a few boys start primary school laterthan in developed countries, and/or take more than one year to complete eachstandard, particularly the leaving exam, one can see quite big boys, eventall teenagers, in this uniform.

Local Private Schools

Quite a variety here: styles similar tothe government schools but with more colours. There are some maroon and blue outfits, and white shirts with grey shorts. Some boys now wear ties and long trousers.

International Schools

Although about two thirds of the pupils will be locally based, these are the schools where most expatriates will send their children, with staff recruited from overseas, and high fees to match. The uniforms, though, are kept pretty simple. Blue predominates in the uniforms. One

Figure 1.--.
school has a blue striped shirt and plain blue shorts, another, a patternedkhaki & blue shirt with the blue shorts. Elsewhere they wear grey shortswith light blue shirts and (horror of horrors!) ties for the juniors. I have even seen a few in long trousers during this cold season. Theseschools have also introduced floppy wide brimmed uniform hats in the last two years to counter parents' anxieties about exposing young heads to the hot sun.

Secondary Schools

Secondary school boys used to wear short pants. They were generally simply styled cotton drill shorts. Most secondary schools now have simpleopen necked white shirts and long trousers in school colours, but there isone private school that still requires white shirts and grey shorts.

The International Secondary School here was all shorts until 3 years ago. When I arrived in Malawi in 1980 the boys all wore grey cotton shorts with an open necked blue shirt. The shorts worn at the time tended to be shirter than those worn by British boys. Towards the end of the 1980s ties were introduced for the prefects a really classic look coupled with the short shorts! About this time theshorts colour was changed to blue, and hemlines began to descend. Since 1996 the boys have been allowed to wear long trousers and most do, though some still wear shorts.

Additional Information

Related Links: Careful this will exit you from the Boys' Historical Clothing web site, but both sites are highly recommended

Apertures Press International Project: Pictures at schools in different countries and a book on British schools
Apertures Pres New Zealand book: New book on New Zealand schools in progress
School Uniform Web Site: Informative review of British school uniforms with some excellent photographs
Boys' Preparatory Schools: Photographic essay available on British preparatory school during the 1980s.

Christopher Wagner

Related Chronolgy Pages in the Boys' Historical Web Site
[Main Chronology Page]
[The 1900s] [The 1910s] [The 1920s] [The 1930s]

Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing School Uniform Pages
[Main School Uniform Page]
[Main National School Uniform Page]
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Created: June 5, 1999
Last updated: June 5, 1999