Tag: back to school

Back-to-school on a budget

Source: News24

Those lengthy back-to-school stationery lists are back in every student’s home by now and from the great expense (why is glue so expensive?) to the odd requests (toilet paper, really?) you might be pulling your hair out already.

Parent24 spoke to local stationery supplier, PNA, who offered parents some insider tips to save time and money when buying school supplies this year.

Budget

Budgeting for school supplies is a must, because it keeps you from impulse buying and encourages you to stay on track with your monthly goal.

If school supplies are going to cost a little more than you thought, adjust other areas of your budget. Take cash instead of your credit card so that you’re not tempted to spend more than you’ve budgeted for.

Second hand

Consider buying used or refurbished electronics. Thanks to the pandemic, technological devices are becoming a purchase you just can’t escape.

Check sites like Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace for lightly used or refurbished devices, headphones or laptops that won’t send you to the cleaners.

Be strict

Buy them what they need to do well. At the end of the day, your child won’t fall apart if they don’t have the latest sports team or celebrity-themed notebooks.

Do your research, make your lists, and then be focused and strict when you finally hit the stores for back-to-school shopping.

If your budget is tight, typically, the kids won’t need every single supply during the first few days of school. So you could also also buy these items one term at a time.

Generic versus name brands

Generic brands are known for their very basic packaging and labels, and lower prices. And in tough economic times, shoppers are naturally drawn to cheaper brands.

But it really does depend on the product you are buying, if your child is taking art as a subject for instance, it would be wise to invest in a name brand that is trusted as a well-performing product in the art community.

Speak to a store consultant who can advise and help you to make the best choices.

Label well

You don’t need to print a full name on pencils. Save time and labels by using your child’s surname only.

For expensive devices, label the machine in a few different areas, on top, underneath and on the electrical cables as these go to school to charge the devices.

Use silver permanent markers on items with dark backgrounds like school shoes, black markers on light backgrounds.

Write your child’s names on the inside of their school bag in black permanent marker.

And also give them a bag tag or fun key-ring to put on their bag so they can easily distinguish which one is theirs, especially if they all have the same bags.

By Kerry Sutherland for BizCommunity 

Following a year dominated by Covid-19, with its knock-on economic effects, back-to-school 2021 looks different from previous years.

Salary cuts and retrenchments have affected many South Africans, and as a result, many parents are more cash-strapped than ever before. These are some of the changes we anticipate, with tips on how parents can navigate this expensive annual exercise.

Tighter budgets

Many schools provide parents with a list of stationery and uniform requirements for the year. There is no need to buy everything at the start of the year. Buy what you need and delay the purchasing of other items until they are needed. This is particularly true for the winter school uniform.

Before you go shopping, create a budget for each child. If your child is brand conscious, emphasise that brands are a “nice to have” rather than a necessity. Give them a budget and make it a fun exercise for them to shop around for the best bargains. This can also instil a sense of satisfaction that your child has shopped wisely.

From lunchboxes to laptops, make sure you’re buying quality so that you do not need to replace it in the short term. There are many websites you can use which compare what a laptop has to offer and if it is good value for money.

Find out if your child’s school has a second-hand shop for clothing, speak to other parents who are leaving the school, or who might have older children who have outgrown clothing, to see what you can buy from them.

Homeschooling your children could see your grocery bill expand. Meal (and even snack) planning in advance can help to keep track of your spending by avoiding impulse purchases and reducing food wastage. Prepare lunches the night before so that you aren’t tempted to order take-away.

Homeschooling options

Education has changed dramatically after many children around the world received their education through e-learning platforms during the pandemic. According to Deloitte’s research in the United States, 51% of parents are spending more on internet-based learning resources year-on-year, such as virtual tutors, subscriptions to e-learning platforms, and online classes. This has also been a trend in South Africa, as many children thrived with homeschooling and now prefer to continue with this method going forward.

A potential solution for families where one parent has lost their job during 2020 is for that parent to stay home and monitor the children while they embark on home-schooling. Many employers have told employees to work from home or to work fewer days from the office, allowing for more parental supervision of home-schooled children.

The initial outlay of homeschooling is pricey. You may need to buy desks and each child will need a quality laptop or desktop computer, with a webcam and microphone. Your household will also require a printer and scanner (or smartphone with scanner app) and an internet connection with sufficient data every month. Textbooks are in the form of e-books and cost R900 and R1,000 per year.

The cost of doing the South African National Senior Certificate online can range from as little as R3,500 to R23,900 per year. The cost of the British curriculum internationally accredited (Junior High, International GCSE, AS-Levels and A-Levels) can range from R10,000 to R84,000 per year.

Children can also tap into free online resources to supplement their school’s curriculum, by streaming stories for free through audible on Amazon or taking free courses on the non-profit Khan Academy’s website.

Many parents pay a fortune in private extra lessons for their children. Many of these can now be done online at a reduced cost and, in addition, you can save time and fuel costs.

Don’t stop your education savings plans

In cash-constrained times like these, you may wish to stop or reduce your children’s education savings plans. Be aware that insurance company education policies will charge a penalty for stopping your premiums. In addition, we all understand the power of compound interest over time; by stopping or reducing now, you will have to put in much more later to make up the difference. Many South African shares have lost value during 2020, so it is an excellent time to buy these shares at reduced prices.

If money is really tight, you can convince your child to contribute a portion of their birthday loot towards their education savings.

Lower increases in school fees for 2021

While many private schools have tried to reduce their annual fee increases as much as they can, if you find yourself in a position where you are unable to pay fees, contact the school urgently to discuss a possible reduction in fees, or a different fee paying arrangement.

 

Kids’ stationery booms during pandemic

By Jennifer Alsever for Marker

Christy Warner, a communications manager in Minneapolis, searched for months for a desk that fit her teenage daughter’s room and was priced less than $200. “I looked on Ikea, Wayfair, Overstocked, Target, TJ Maxx, everywhere, and everything is sold out,” she says.

Last spring, her daughter, a high school senior, converted the dining room table into a working desk during lockdown. Today, she’s upgraded to a folding table in her bedroom. “I just couldn’t find something,” says Warner. “It’s just like the toilet paper shortage.”

Covid-19 has created a whiplash cycle of unexpected product surges and shortages, from bicycles and pools, to flour and outdoor heaters. The latest unexpected pandemic rush: children’s office supplies. Call it the most expensive back-to-school year yet. As schools continue toggling between remote and hybrid learning, parents have been throttled into spending hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars to set up makeshift home classrooms for their children — from first-graders to marooned college students.

Some companies are cashing in on the boom by launching new products to cater to what’s essentially a new breed of kid’s home office.

Forget backpacks and lunchboxes — according to Wayfair, sales of student desks are up 129%; meanwhile sales of Chromebooks, a popular no-frills laptop for students, have surged in the past few months.

“It’s a totally different set of things that are needed for back to school,” says Ben Arnold, a consumer technology analyst at research firm NPD. For instance, sales of notebook computers jumped 46% between July and August, compared to the same time during 2019, according to NPD. There was a similar lift in sales of USB webcams (174%), PC headsets (109%), monitors (78%), computer mice, (70%) routers (60%), and keyboards (40%). Parents are also snapping up more specialised gadgets to modify their setups, including green screens and ring lights — which improve lighting for Zooming into school, says Arnold.

Headphones have also been selling out. In Carlsbad, California, back-to-school sales at JLab Audio, an online audio retailer, have doubled, driven by parents snapping up $29 kids’ Bluetooth headphones that offer a smaller fit for either distance learning or “keeping kids occupied during lockdown,” says JLab CEO Win Cramer.

Another unexpected back-to-school hit: children’s blue light glasses, designed to protect little eyes from prolonged exposure to the harsh glow of computer screens and electronics.

Some companies are cashing in on the boom by launching new products to cater to what’s essentially a new breed of kid’s home office. Annex, an on-demand service that outfits home offices for employees, has been bombarded with inquiries from parents who want to set up workspaces for their children — so many that Annex has a kid’s cubicle in product development, says Rob Wu, a spokesman for the company.

Meanwhile, McSquares, a Colorado-based office supply startup that recently raised funding on Shark Tank, has begun offering $50 “distance learning packages” which include erasable markers, a desktop whiteboard that can replace scratch paper, and a six-pack of erasable sticky notes, which let students jot down their thoughts and rearrange them on the wall.

“There are great things we shouldn’t be doing in front of a screen, and one of them is thinking visually,” says McSquares’s founder and CEO Anthony Franco, who has seen quarterly sales top $1 million, up 500% over the last year, thanks in part to demand for Covid home offices.

Even companies that typically sell to school districts are suddenly finding themselves in the mass consumer game. Cincinnati-based School Outfitters, which sells school furniture and supplies to districts, has been selling parents bouncy and wobble chairs that let kids move around while sitting, along with kid-size standing desks. The pandemic hurt the company’s sales in March and April, says CEO Tom Brennan, but it has since bounced back with a new revenue stream — “regular parents.” Adds Brennan: “It’s not really our market, but we’re happy to help them.”

By Manda Banda for Intelligent CIO

SA-based stationery retailer Bidvest Waltons and payments platform Karri have partnered to ensure a safe, simple and convenient Back-to-School experience for South Africans.

The partnership paves way for parents to purchase their Waltons stationery packs securely through the Nedbank powered Karri app.

Back-to-School stationery shopping was established by Bidvest Walton nearly 30 years ago, partnering with schools to give parents a simple and convenient purchasing solution for their children’s stationery needs.

Today, the iconic ‘Back-to-School Box’ is a household favourite for many South African families. Parents are able to order the traditional way by using printed order forms, through the Back-to-School e-commerce platform (backtoschool.co.za) or at any one of Bidvest Walton’s 53 retail stores.

Karri has created a cash-free school environment and has alleviated the administrative burden and safety concerns of schools to manually collect cash.

Parents are now able to buy their stationery packs directly through the Karri App in mere seconds.

The app also eliminates the administrative burden on schools, of handing out catalogues and order forms, collecting orders and handling cash.

Olivia Rungasamy, National Schools Manager, Bidvest Waltons, said: “We always aim to simplify our customer purchasing experience and we are excited by what this innovative partnership with Karri affords our partner schools, parents and learners. It solves the all-time hassle of buying Back-to-School stationery. We have a responsibility to our customers to ensure that their Back-to-School shopping experience is safer and more convenient now and long into the future.”

Douglas Hoernle, CEO, Karri said the changes to the school terms as a result of the pandemic has put a lot of pressure on everyone.

“We are in the fortunate position of being able to do our bit to take away some of the administration that would otherwise take away from valuable teaching time,” said Hoernle.

CNA pins hopes on 2021 BTS

According to a recent BusinessLive article, CEO of CNA, Benjamin Trisk, “only expects a recovery for the stationery business when back-to-school shopping starts in 2021”.

Edcon bought CNA for R141-million in 2002; it sold it for R1 to Astoria Investments in February.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the five-week nationwide lockdown, consumer spend is under pressure on the back of a weak economy and a rise in retrenchments.

Growing digital platforms are selling competing products, often at better prices.

Trisk believes an improvement in CNA sales would come when consumers returned to shops. Foot traffic at the larger malls remains down, though some mall owners say while shopping fewer times a month, customers are buying more each time.

Trisk has reiterated his plans to revive CNA by:

  • Improving the retailer’s book selection and adding more local African literature and books in local languages
  • Improving the signage, curation and display in-store
  • Cutting CNA product lines
  • Removing chocolates, snacks, and tech products including laptops, cellphones and chargers

Post-lockdown back to school chaos

Source: IOL

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has affirmed that pupils will return to school on June 8, next Monday.

The minister also apologised to the South African public after days of confusion about the reopening of schools.

Motshekga’s department had also postponed press conferences since Friday, which were expected to outline the department’s final pronouncement on the matter of schools reopening after teacher unions and many in the public had slammed the department’s plans to forge ahead with continuing with the 2020 academic year.

Motshekga stressed that any further delay to the school year would pose a serious threat to the academic year. She also said that continued postponement of continuing with the school year would impact negatively on poor pupils, especially, as they would be expected to write the same exam with everyone else.

This means that next Monday, June 8, all Grade 7 and 12 pupils are expected back to school.

A joint survey conducted by South Africa’s teacher unions showed that no more than 55% of principals reported being ready to resume teaching and learning when schools open on Monday.

The results of the survey, which was conducted to strengthen the collaboration between the Basic Education Department and unions who share the goal of ensuring that schools are safe for teachers and learners to return, fiound that in terms of provision of face masks, all provinces scored below 25 percent except Western Cape which scored 84 percent.

The leaked survey concluded that some challenges are common across as many as six provinces, such as:

  • Inadequate water for Covid-19 requirements (6 provinces)
  • Water tanks that are required not yet delivered (6 provinces)
  • Insufficient masks delivered (two per person) (8 provinces)

Last-minute BTS shopping has parents fuming

By Kgomotso Modise for EWN

Many parents said that they only received confirmation from the Education Department on where their children had been placed on Tuesday morning.

As parents who left their back to school shopping to the very last minute flocked to uniform and stationery shops last Tuesday afternoon, many blamed the Education Department for the situation.

Government schools reopen last Wednesday for the 2020 academic year.

The queue to get into the schoolwear shop in Booysens was lengthy, with parents streaming in. The store is the go-to shop for schools in the south.

Many of the parents said that they only received confirmation from the Education Department on where their children had been placed the morning before school started.

“I was expecting the other school to take him then he was taken by this school that I don’t like, so that’s the reason why I had to do the last minute shopping because I didn’t know which uniform to buy.”

One woman said that the last-minute changes in her family had brought her here.

“Having to move from one area to another area. I only found out that my daughter was accepted at the school at 12pm [on Tuesday].”

Some parents abandoned their bid for new school uniforms because of the long queues, saying they would try again.

Local parents compare BTS stationery prices

Two local parents have compared eight well-known South African retailers to find the most affordable stationery.

The parents sent their findings to the Parent24 website.

In the first table, reader Keith bases his information on promotional BTS leaflets and retailer websites.

In the second table, reader Jacky compared leading retailers, with the green indicating the cheapest option. Asterisks illustrate where prices were not available at the time of publishing.

Source: Cape Talk

Stationery supplier Bidvest Waltons has responded to service complaints from Cape Town parents who did not get their back-to-school orders on time.

Some parents complained about failed deliveries, lack of communication and poor customer service.

Tessa Dowling, Cynthia Makwenyaa and Andrew Williams were among those affected by the delays.

They all described to consumer journalist Wendy Knowler how the stationery supplier had no boxes prepared despite their preorders.

When they arrived to collect the stationery sets, boxes were not labelled and many parents had to wait hours or return later for assistance.

Waltons says it will refund orders that were paid for but not received by customers.

Knowler says parents should use their collective power to push schools to review their agreements with stationery suppliers that don’t deliver.

If a school recommends a system that doesn’t deliver and fails to communicate, it’s up to the parents [to ask the schools] about what pressure they are putting on the service provider to up their game.

Below is the statement consumer journalist Wendy Knowler received from Waltons:

“We accept and sincerely regret the frustrations suffered by this customer but unfortunately, we do sometimes have glitches in a logistics operation of this nature and magnitude of the back to school one. While the issue is now resolved, we have also contacted our customer to apologise for the poor experience.

We assure you that we are committed to resolving all issues brought to our attention. To this end we have a dedicated mail address for customers to communicate with us which enables us to personally deal with queries:

bts2019@cape.waltons.co.za

In addition to our normal planning for this important part of our business which starts after the end of the current season, we review any issues which arose during the last season and also share experiences with other regions in order to continuously improve our service levels. Should any boxes or items not have been received but been paid for, we would obviously refund these amounts.

We are very proud of our involvement over so many decades in the back to school market and would thus like to express our thanks to all our customers for their continued support. We try to learn and so get better every year.

Thank you too for bringing this matter to our attention as any service let down is not acceptable to us.”

Make school stationery last

Source: Jacaranda FM

It’s back to school which means parents are expected to buy a list of school stationery as long as their arm for their kids.
Stationery can be costly and because of that, it needs to last. These tips below will help you ensure that your child’s school stationery lasts longer and will save you some money.

Buy good quality stationery
Good quality products last longer. Avoid buying things just because they are cheaper. It’s better to invest in quality stationery than finding yourself having to buy more stationery during the year, which might turn out to be costlier.

Remember to compare prices from different stores. You might get good quality products for less by comparing prices.

Organise your stationery
There is nothing worse than coming home to find your child’s stationery scattered all over the floor or in multiple rooms. Not only does this make your house untidy, but it can also result in your child losing some of the stationery. So, teach your children how to organise their stationery and to pack it away tidily.

Make a list
Keeping track of the stationery will ensure that your child doesn’t lose items without realising it. Set aside time for them either daily, or weekly where they check the list and ensure they haven’t lost anything

Ensure your child’s stationery is marked
Children often misplace or get their stationery mixed up. Marking your child’s stationery will ensure that they can easily identify it.

Buy a big enough school bag and space case
If your child’s school bag or space case is too small, they might end up damaging their stationery. Buy a big enough school bag that has the compartments they need for different items. Also get a space case so that they can pack all their stationery in one place.

Take proper care of stationery
Teach your children to handle their stationery with care. This means teaching them the importance of replacing tops on pens and markers, replacing the top on their glue sticks and keeping crayons and colouring pencils packed in the box.

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