Tuesday, November 02, 2010


The closest I ever came to wearing a uniform to school in The States was sophomore year of high school when our water polo coach required us to wear ties to school on the day of one of our post-season regional championship games. And that doesn’t really count. I still wore jeans. Our starting defensive hole set Will wore a clip-on tie on the collar of his T-shirt. So I make no claims to knowing the joys and pitfalls of wearing a uniform to school, but I can assume that free-dress days are an exciting treat.

I vaguely remember friends of mine who went to private school talking about free-dress days as rewards in some sort of scholastic or behavioral incentive scheme. Here in Samoa free-dress days come at a different price: literally a price. On occasion schools will use free-dress days as a fundraiser. From what I hear, the fee tends to be nominal—the one my school had last week was $10—though some students’ families have a harder time paying for this than others, of course.

The free-dress fundraiser is referred to as a Mufti. Since this is definitely not a Samoan word (two consecutive consonants is a linguistic impossibility in Samoan), I can only assume the term comes from Kiwi influence. Oh good. As it turns out, Wikipedia has an insightful article about the Mufti’s etymology. Apparently the term is Arabic.

In any case, I have to say from what I hear from other volunteers, my school deals with financing really well. School staff runs a small profit off the student canteen, and that tends to cover nearly all extracurricular expenses. This is a rare arrangement in this country, and it explains why in all the time I’ve been here, last week’s Mufti (to subsidize school magazine printing costs) was my first. In fact, when Koa texted me about a Mufti at his school back in February of this year, I had no idea what the term meant. Blakey had to explain it to me.

Free-dress comes with all the excitement one would expect. Girls wear earrings and make-up. Boys find their own ways to accessorize—hats, sunglasses, and for some, make-up.

The event seemed like a bigger deal for the lower levels. The 9s and 10s were all about it. The older kids, particularly the student prefects, seemed rattled with adolescent indifference and shrugged off the day as though it simply meant they didn’t have to worry about ironing that morning. By nature of their position, student prefects are on campus outside the normal school day pretty often, and much of that time is spent out of uniform.

And now that I think about it, my year 12 computer class was a bit of a fashion show. One girl Taeone, the pebble in my teaching sandals, was dressed to the nines with vinyl gold sandals and designer sunglasses. Legalo wore her hair down. Vincent, who tries his best to channel Michael Jackson, was in top form. It was a crack up.

I hope you’re well. Pictures below.

Fautamara and Taeone.

Fanua and Eddie (who wore Vincent's sunglasses for this picture).

Boys from my year 10 English class. Vailima (in the middle) wore eye-liner. It was so punk rock.

Girls in my year 9 science class.

Akari from year 10. I have no idea what the 74 means.

No comments: