Home Opinion and Features The back-to-school rip off

The back-to-school rip off

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The best way to fight poverty is through education

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SCHOOL reopens next week and for many parents it is a financial nightmare, with expensive school uniforms and long stationery and sportswear lists to comply with.

For many of South Africa’s poor, education is regarded as the way to lift their children out of the cycle and so it is a top priority.

They fight to get their children registered in a decent school, often meaning they have to fork out for transport to get them there.

They want their children to be dressed neatly, and have what they need to succeed, but, in many cases, they are being ripped off with ridiculous demands from schools.

At some schools the uniform – which can only be purchased at a particular supplier – speaks about its exclusivity and the fancy badges, branded bags and other school requirements just add to the burden of these parents, and discriminate against them.

We are not advocating to do away with uniforms as they certainly do serve a purpose, but when parents cannot choose where to buy, and cannot shop around to take advantage of cheaper prices for the basics such as dresses, shirts, shorts and socks, this is clearly not fair.

We are pleased that the Competitions Commission investigation into the R10-billion school uniform industry is at an advanced stage.

One of its findings – which many people and organisations long suspected and complained about – is that many schools do have exclusive “arrangements” with suppliers, and that these “arrangements” have not been concluded via open tenders across all provinces.

It is time that the Basic Education Department draws a line in the sand and instructs Education departments throughout the country to follow its lead.

In a democratic South Africa, the best way to fight poverty is through education – and this should not be restricted by the parents’ ability to afford fancy school clothes and accessories.