Busy week lies fast as parents and guardians rushes to buy their children school uniform and stationery as the schools’ first term kicks off for the year 2023.
Whereas schools opened yesterday, some schools with A-level examination classes have already opened in the previous week.
A single mother of two pupils, one in primary and one in secondary school, Moketenyane Mokoena, said January is the most stressful time of the year. Since it is back- to -school season, schooling needs are increasingly becoming very expensive. Mokoena said she did not overspend during the festive season holidays but her salary is too little to accommodate school fees as well as the basic household needs.
For primary education in Lesotho, it is a well-known fact that government introduced a Free Primary Education (FPE) on a phased out period during 2000 and 2006. This was government’s initiative to make basic education accessible for all Basotho. Despite this, Mokoena, like many other Basotho, prefers private education schooling for their children and it costs a fortune. She believes that the level of teaching in private education institutions is of a much higher quality as compared to that offered in the government’s FPE.
“I lost hope in government schools when they shut down for approximately two years because teachers were on strike. Children were left stranded. So I sacrifice a lot of money towards my children’s fees rather than to downgrade the quality of education that they receive,” verified Mokoena.
In 2019 government-employed teachers resolved to go on a strike in a quest to force government to address their long-standing demands concerning salary increments and improved working conditions.
With regards to the cost of school uniforms, relieved parents said retailers have not increased prices for school uniforms and other school supplies as it has been a norm in previous years.
Nevertheless, guardian to two high school pupils, Lerato Motumi, complained that the back-to-school business trade benefits outsiders more than it does domestic traders. She said uniforms and stationeries were mostly sold by foreigner shop owners. Motsumi said small business traders, such as local dressmakers producing on a small scale, should be jam-packed with orders from Basotho before engaging any expatriates because local dressmakers are capable.
Motumi said parents shopping for school supplies, should not feel forced to buy uniforms and stationeries from pavement vendors because of their low prices as compared to big retailers. She said they should rather do so out of their own will. Knowing that they do not only strengthen the local economy when they shop at these informal vendors. But they also help to create more jobs which goes a long way to support friends, families and neighbors.
On the other hand Motumi advised parents to support more local businesses when shopping for back to school season because while a school sun hat costs M50.00 from the vendors, in big shops it costs M70.00.
Katleho Design Owners and Tailor ‘Makatleho Khabisa said the cost of clothing material has escalated just like any other price in the markets forcing school uniforms to be bit expensive.
“I stopped sewing school uniform because shops sell it at lower price, forcing me to be cheaper. On my side it’s not profitable, on top of that people still struggle to settle the whole bill, so I opt for other garments except school uniforms,” said Khabisa.