KOTA KINABALU: When former education minister Dr Maszlee Malik introduced the controversial black-shoe policy, many parents and teachers agreed with it.
However, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who has temporarily taken over the portfolio following Maszlee’s resignation, said he is not bothered about the colour of shoes worn to school.
“One thing I have decided is that you can wear brown shoes, black shoes, grey shoes, white shoes – any shoes will do,” he said.
His statement received mixed reactions, but most teachers and parents in the state prefer Maszlee’s policy with obvious reason – it helps children to save time and help parents to save money.
Siti Radzia Ramlee, a teacher from Kota Belud, said although shoe colour is seen as a small issue by some, it has become one of the ways in school to shape students’ discipline.
“When it comes to white and black colour, we can see a uniformed colour where students are trained to follow rules. It may be simple rules, but it will make them respect it.
“However, in my personal opinion black shoes are more suitable in our country to ensure students are comfortable with what they wear, so that they can focus on studies more.
“In my experience, looking at students in white shoes before, there are some students who are not comfortable when their shoes are dirty. It affected their mood in the classroom. But when they started wearing black, we don’t really see any of them being worried about their shoes anymore. Not to mention the road conditions in our state, it will easily make the students’ shoes dirty even on the first day of school,” she said.
Commenting on “any colour” of shoes as said by Dr Mahathir, Radzia said it was a bad idea because it would be an additional problem for the school to provide guidelines on what kind of shoes are acceptable.
“We don’t want students to come to the school with the latest trendy fashion because it may create a different environment. Schoolchildren should be in school to study, and not showing off their beautiful shoes.
“If everyone is wearing the same black shoes, there is no different of who can afford and who cannot afford to buy beautiful shoes. This is a very small issue like wearing nametag and badge, but it is for the benefit of the students,” she said.
Another teacher, Fariezah Rabusah from Penampang, echoed Radzia’s view on the new policy of black shoes, saying that not many parents can afford to buy “easy to clean” shoes because of the pricey tag.
With black shoes, students can even wear it for curricular activities so there is no need to buy an extra pair of shoes.
“But since the new minister said students can wear any shoes, the school should make the final call on this matter.
“There is no guideline on the students’ hair but every school has its own rules on it. I think this is going to be the same situation with shoes, but I personally go for black,” said the English teacher from SMK Datuk Peter Mojuntin.
A mother from Putatan, Bibie Doughty said having two kids in primary school is not easy with white shoes, especially when the children are active.
“We cannot expect our primary schools to be clean all the time because they will eventually play with their friends, running around the school and shoes will definitely get dirty.
“With black shoes there is no sore in the eyes and pinch in the heart,” she said giggling.
A guardian of a primary school pupil, Mardelynn Madsah said after the black shoes policy had been introduced, she saved a lot of time washing, drying and white chalking.
“When other parents said washing white shoes can teach children to learn discipline, I think they can do other things such as washing their own plates, wash and iron their clothes,” she added.
Afizah Jislih, a mother of a seven-year-old pupil in Tanjung Aru, said black shoes should be a standard colour for children and many schools in other countries had opted for it.
“We must look at this matter in a bigger picture, take into account of the changing world.
“Politicians should not discuss this as a political tool, but it should be discussed after they are wearing teachers or parents’ hats,” she concluded.