Back-to-school stationery price shock

The average stationery list for a primary school child starting Grade 1 has a total cost of between R700 and R1 000 and, while parents would want to compare prices to get the best deals, schools are prescribing certain brands for parents to buy.
Many schools offered parents the option of paying the school for the stationery or purchasing it themselves.

Most parents who spoke to the Daily News on Monday while doing their last-minute stationery shopping felt some items on the list were “overboard”.

Parents believed items such as a box of tissues and toilet paper should be provided by the school.

Different types of crayons, glue sticks and paper reams were some of the items schools required on the first day, but parents said this added another expense to the already exorbitant price of getting children back to school.

The price of a ream of A4 paper of 500 sheets is about R47.99 and some schools stipulated which brand they wanted parents to buy.

Grade R pupils were no exception. A stationery list for Grade R pupils at a Durban North public school with 18 items cost R615.22, excluding an extra R200 for a swimming bag, a chair bag and a library bag.

Five-year-old Thando Mokwena of Westville is attending Holy Family College this year and was busy shopping for stationery with her parents on Monday. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/ANA
A mother of a Grade 1 pupil said she thought being told to buy 17 exercise books for her child was a bit too much.

“I have a problem with the school asking me to buy so many exercise books. I know that times have changed and that children these days do more than I did in my time, but I think 17 books are just too much. Asking for four items of glue stick, which cost R56.49 each, to be bought at the same time was inconsiderate,” she said.

She said it would be reasonable for schools to instead ask parents to supply one of each item which could be replaced when they ran out.

Sizakele Mthembu, a parent of a Grade 2 pupil attending a private school in Durban, said she had a problem with schools dictating which brands parents should buy.

“There are retail shops with cheaper options on items such as pencils, glue sticks, wax crayons, rulers, paper reams and ballpoints, but schools ask for specific brands,” she said.

A Grade 6 pupil said: “I find myself having to ask my parents to buy me more glue stick, pens and pencils by the end of the first term. They are stolen,” she said.

Khethiwe Ndlovu, a parent of a Grade 3 pupil, said last year she had dropped off all the stationery on the first day of school and was told not to remove the items from their packaging. That was the last time she saw the stationery.

“The children are made to keep the books at school and only take their homework books home,” she said.

She suspected that schools were supplying other children who did not have.

“I understand the kind of poverty that some pupils come from and, if that is the case, then the school should make us aware of such challenges so that it can be done properly,” she said.

Ntombizodwa Zungu, a mother of a Grade 9 pupil, had the choice of buying her daughter’s stationery from the school but instead opted for shopping around at different retail shops, saving R350.

“Checking for prices beforehand helps and, although it is a lot of work, my secret has always been to buy early and have a proper shopping plan. The last-minute rush would always work out to be expensive,” she said

Vanessa Chetty said she found exercise books were not expensive, but it was the extras, such as dictionaries and crayons, that were.

She said that while they could be used for more than a year, she was forced to buy them twice a year.

Vee Gani, South Durban chairman of the KZN Parents Association, said stationery was expensive and schools and parents should have discussions about making cost effective purchases.

He said when it came to schools’ choice of brands, there was no choice as some cheaper brands were useless.

“I can understand why parents are sceptical about sending more than one item to school for risk of it being stolen or lost.

“But teachers also want to prevent a situation of items being forgotten at home,” he said

By Sne Masuku for IOL

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