Back-to-school stationery lists can be cripplingly expensive, so what are your parental rights?

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"The school cannot demand [toiletries] as such - it will obviously assist the school's expenses if parents contributed towards toilet rolls."
"The school cannot demand [toiletries] as such - it will obviously assist the school's expenses if parents contributed towards toilet rolls."

If you've found yourself wondering whether that long list of required stationery you received is legit, you're not alone. 

Following on from the number of emails we receive from parents, we've put together a mock till slip of what some parent's stationery lists look like (feels, and all).

 mock till slip showing high prices of stationery

Yes, that is indeed 6 glue sticks, 4 bottles of hand sanitiser and - your eyes are not deceiving you - 9 rolls of toilet paper. 

I honestly don't recall taking toilet paper to school? 

Seems I'm not alone, as social media has been flooded with parents sharing their financial frustrations, asking others if they too were facing similar struggles. 

Commenting via Facebook, one mom wrote: "Why is stationery so expensive!"

Peta W commented via the News24 Facebook page saying she feels "The government should supply stationery."

Adding another opinion via email, a Parent24 reader told us she feels parents "are being exploited out here. I can barely afford the school fees, let alone to still have to pay for books and stationery." 

See more comments here:

In typical South African style, many are maintaining a sense of humour about it.

But the reality is that for many families the costs can be crippling. 

'It's the school's responsibility to supply these toiletries'

In one closed Facebook group, a mom had shared that she feels schools have become rather unreasonable with their stationery lists, especially with the inclusion of items like toilet paper and dictionaries. 

The same mom said that while her finances allowed for her to purchase stationery without it being a burden, she wondered how other parents, especially those earning a minimum wage, were getting by. 

We asked Sue Larkan of Tabansi, who specialises in the laws relating to school issues and advocates for parent's rights, what parents can do if they just cannot afford to buy certain items. 

Here's her advice: 

The school cannot demand [toiletries] as such - it will obviously assist the school's expenses if parents contributed towards toilet rolls.

In this circumstance, the parent does not need to supply all of this at once, and maybe just one pack per term is a suggestion. The school cannot hold you to ransom for this either. 

At the end of the day, it's the school's responsibility to supply these toiletries. 

'These demands are not legally binding'

Regarding the matter of toilet paper and office-use paper allowance the Department of Basic Education provides schools with, Larkan told Parent24 that: 

Schools, especially our Quintile 4 and 5 schools, receive such low budget to run and maintain their schools, this is my personal gripe as well, hence the high school fees. 
Schools are trying to lower their expenditure from their budgets,  but at the end of the day, the school is responsible for the hygiene and cleanliness etc. of their property and facilities.

The parent only contributes voluntarily what [they] can. These demands are not legally binding.

Are there unreasonable items on your child's stationery list? Find our details below and tell us. 

Chat back:

Share your story with Parent24. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

WhatsApp: Send messages and voicenotes to 066 010 0325

Email: Share your story with us via email at chatback @

Sign up for Parent24's newsletters.

Read more:

Back-to-school hacks that will save you buck

"But mum, you have a message': Girl interrupts mom during live TV bulletin

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