WITH schools opening tomorrow, the Bulawayo central business district was a hive of activity as parents did last-minute shopping for their children.
Apart from the usual problems of meeting school fees requirements, the start of the year comes with added need to buy new uniforms and accessories, especially for initial classes like Grade Zero and One as well as for Form Ones.
A survey by Southern Eye Business revealed that most parents had shifted attention from the festive mood to back-to-school preparations. Some customers at a local supermarket said they were out to ensure that they got most of the essentials for the new term.
“My son is starting Form One this year and as I was going around with a list of requirements from the school. I could see this would be a challenge, so I decided to beat the rush and compare prices because every cent counts,” Yvonne Mpala said.
“He is not going to boarding school, but all the same, there is a major change because it’s like a total overhaul from uniforms to basic things like backpacks.”
The government assured all its employees that they would get 13th cheques in the first week of this year with some sectors of the economy seeing it as a positive move to counter the increasingly difficult start of the year.
Merchant Phiri, a civil servant, said although he was still awaiting bonus payment, he had decided to buy the stuff he could afford with the money he had saved.
“I know we have been promised our bonus payments, but I believe it’s better to start buying now because once all of us flock into these shops, everything will become expensive,” Phiri said.
“In any case, it is still not a guaranteed development and I just cannot afford to be disappointed at the last minute. There is also a hangover of the festive season which makes me afraid to hold on to cash as I can spend it all and then struggle to send my child to school comfortably.”
In the past, parents have expressed concern at sudden increases in the price of uniforms and stationery a few days before schools open. With persistent liquidity challenges in the country, parents could struggle to raise all the money required to send their children to school.
Another parent, George Makhaya, said he was unsettled during the festive season and was pondering how he would cope with sending his child to school.
“I am sending my child for Form One and after what I have heard from other people, I would always be afraid of failing to cope,” Makhaya said.
“Since I received my November pay cheque, the focus has been on buying even the little things which can prove to be a headache later,” he said.
Although Southern Eye last week reported a drop in the prices of uniforms, a compilation of one set of new learners’ uniform requirements averaged from various shops in the city seems to justify parents’ fears as they add up to substantial amounts as shown in the tables above.