High cost of going back to school

Sharon Pule and son Trenton Nott (15) shop for stationery. PHOTO: OMEGA MOAGI
Sharon Pule and son Trenton Nott (15) shop for stationery. PHOTO: OMEGA MOAGI

GOING back to school is not cheap.

It costs about R1 100 for a Grade 1 pupil’s basic school necessities and about R1 700 for a Grade 8 pupil.

As schools reopened this week, parents have been digging deep into their pocket to be able to afford just the basics. Fever visited shops to find out the cost of the back-to-school essentials this year.

A basic uniform, including a shirt, vest, pants, jersey, socks and shoes for a Grade 1 pupil, costs up to around R550 for boys and around R488 for girls.

Having to buy school uniforms for the first time this year, Terisse and Fabian­ Sukhai said they were shocked by how much they had to spend.

“We had to buy at least two sets of everything and including stationery and the amount came up to about R2 800. It was quite shocking.

“We weren’t expecting it to be that high,” said dad Fabian.

First-time high school pupils will have to pay even more. For a Grade 8 pupil, the cost of the same basic set of uniform amounts to around R790 for boys and R724 for girls.

The mother of a Grade 9 pupil Sheron Pule said she wished she had budgeted better.

“The blazer alone costs R550. If only we knew this before we did all that travelling in December. There’s also stationery, which goes up to R500 and more.

“It’s really hectic, but we’re making ends meet,” said Pule.

Stationery for a Grade 8 pupil came to around R850 and for a Grade 1 around R485. A manager at a stationery store, who asked not to be named, said the back-to-school season is the busiest time of the year for them.

“Back to school for us is bigger than Christmas, because for Christmas, people have a variety of places to shop at, whereas for back to school there are only a few specialised shops that provide back-to-school products,” she said.

Yesterday the IFP called on the Competition Commission to include KwaZulu-Natal in its probe into “school uniform monopolies”, adding that school uniform prices are too high and parents are forced to buy uniforms in certain areas­ that hold a monopoly­.

IFP KZN Education spokesperson Thembeni Madlopha-Mthethwa said the investigation is important because monopolies result in poorer households not being able to afford school uniforms.

“Many people depend on social grants, but when you consider school uniform prices, they come to more than the social grants that people receive.

“This results in too many children going to school without shoes because their parents can only manage to buy a few items for them,” he said.

Madlopha-Mthethwa also invited the Education MEC to join in the call and prevent the exclusion of the poor from schools due to incorrect school uniforms.

“Every child has a right to education, so therefore it doesn’t make sense to chase them away if they don’t have proper school uniform without knowing the real causes and the circumstances which resulted in that,” said Madlopha-Mthethwa.

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