The school uniform guidelines from the Competition Commission not only changed the lives of parents who find it easier to afford school uniforms, but also of entrepreneurs who make the uniforms.
Two years ago, Tshwane-based entrepreneur, Pamela Luthuli, sold school uniforms from the boot of her car for two days a week.
On a good day, she would sell up to five items per day, but some days she would return home without a single sale.
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Today, Luthuli runs a thriving business producing and supplying school uniforms, tunics, golf shirts, blazers, tracksuits and related clothing items to ten schools in and around Tshwane.
Luthuli is the owner of one of many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that benefitted from the Commission’s school uniform procurement guidelines.
She used the National Guidelines on School Uniform issued by the Department of Basic Education in 2006 and the Circular on the Procurement of School Uniforms and other Learning-Related Material as a steppingstone to participate in the value chain of the school uniform production industry.
A family business
“The school uniform industry was in my family’s DNA,” she says.
“I know the business in and out but could never get to supply schools directly with my products. I would hit a brick wall and be told that the schools already had a preferred supplier.”
However, her fortune gradually changed when she learned of the guidelines and read about the Commission’s awareness campaigns encouraging more schools to adhere to the guidelines and practice pro-competitive procurement that supports SMEs and enables parents and guardians to exercise choice when buying school uniforms.
“The guidelines opened doors for me and many others. In approaching schools, I would also refer them to the guidelines and inform them about the importance of opening opportunities for entrepreneurs.”
Luthuli now also employs five workers at Panda Uniforms and Projects to help keep up the demand for her products.
Awareness of guidelines also helped
Khanysia Qobo, the Commission’s head of advocacy, says Luthuli’s experience underpins the objective of the guidelines.
According to a survey conducted in October 2022 to evaluate compliance with the guidelines, Qobo said many respondents were now aware of the guidelines, a completely different result from 2016 when there was not much awareness about its existence.
“The survey found that contracts between schools and suppliers have been limited and that schools have now largely reconfigured their uniforms to allow for a greater mix of generic and unique items,” Qobo says, adding that there were improved levels of compliance with the guidelines.
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The 2022 survey found that schools follow procurement processes where exclusivity clauses are removed and more competitive bidding practices are adopted.
A large number of schools have taken steps to adopt the national guidelines as part of the school’s governance.
“It is important that the guidelines and work of the Commission have compelled all stakeholders along the school uniform value chain to promote greater levels of competition in the market.”
Watch Luthuli talk about her big break here: https://youtu.be/Ih5wzFBS0Jo