KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Education, Kwazi Mshengu, is confident that when the province’s 2,8 million pupils start the 2020 academic year at over 6 000 schooling facilities in KZN on Wednesday, everything will be ready for them. “Based on our preparations and the state of readiness, we are certain that the first day in all our schools will be a smooth one,” said Mshengu.On Monday, Mshengu said the department had ensured that all schools followed proper processes regarding the placement of these pupils. “We are adamant that no learner should be denied an opportunity to be present at school on Wednesday.”The MEC was also happy to announce that all textbooks and learner-teacher support material had been delivered to KZN schools on time. Mshengu said he had visited some of the approximately 144 schools that were damaged by the storms last year and that his department had put contingency measures in place to ensure all the damaged schools are operational by Wednesday. “The department has made arrangements to supply mobile classrooms, and procurement processes are at an advanced stage to provide material to rebuild the damaged schools. “We want to ensure that there are no disruptions that will hamper learning and teaching in our schools,” said Mshengu. Empty pockets for parentsThe beginning of a school year can come with stress and anxiety for both parents and their children.The rising prices of school uniforms, stationery and transport add to the financial strain that January often brings. The Witness spoke to Odelle Thole, a mother of three boys, two of whom are starting their academic careers at a new school on Wednesday. Thole told The Witness that the back-to-school preparations have left her tired, and her pockets empty. “I have a son who will be going to Grade 1, and another going to Grade 8. I have been very busy getting their things ready and wow, everything is so expensive,” Thole said.Sibonakaliso Sithole, a father who was helping his daughter try on some school shoes at one of the stores in the city, told The Witness that although things were costly, he was prepared for the pinch. “As a parent, I know that January comes with these expenses. It never comes as a surprise; therefore, I had already set aside the money to cover all my children’s academic expenses,” said Sithole.