Parents feel pinch as school uniform prices keep rising

Parents have cried foul as they believe they are being subjected to exorbitant school uniform prices.

Soweto resident Gwen Khumalo, whose child goes to school in Mondeor, Johannesburg south, said when she bought socks in October they cost R50.

She was, however, baffled that the same store had increased the price of socks by a whopping 20%. The increase in school uniform prices over the three-month period was effected despite the fact that fuel, a major driver of consumer inflation, has seen a significant drop since October.

The price of 93 octane petrol has seen a decline of R3 since October and diesel prices have also fallen by R4.38 since October. However, it seems the benefit of lower transport costs has not trickled down to school uniform prices, disadvantaging parents from lower income households.

Said Khumalo: “When it comes to school socks and jerseys, there was one shop where we could get them. Around October we bought socks for R50 but this week I bought the socks for R60. Unfortunately, we could only get the socks from that store.”

When it comes to grey trousers and shirts, she said it was paying off to shop around. One shop sold a pair of grey school shorts for R120 while it cost R85 in another store.

“I shop around, I just don’t buy in one store,” she said.

“The school uniform prices have over the years increased drastically. Last year, I managed to buy everything for R1  000. This year, I have already spent more than R1 500. This is despite me not having bought other school uniform items,” said Khumalo.

She said the experience has taught her to buy school uniform three months earlier.

“Remember, retailers know that whether we like it or not, we are going to buy school uniforms. We need to shop smart because these retailers are playing games at the expense of consumers. You snooze you lose,” she said.

Trade union federation Cosatu’s acting spokesperson Matthew Parks said: “We are concerned about the high prices of uniforms. This creates a burden for parents and creates barriers for learners.”

Parks said key interventions needed included exemption from value added tax for locally produced uniforms to make them more affordable.

He said there was also a need to reduce specifications for uniforms to make them more affordable and open up competition.

“For example, this includes removing the need for badges or certain styles. This would allow greater choice and more suppliers to enter the market and end monopolies where a school says you must buy it from this supplier.”

Parks added that schools should be required to open up the supply of uniforms to break monopolies and reduce prices.

Sunday World this week paid two retail outlets a visit to compare school uniform prices.

While at PEP white shirts range from R22.99 for children in grade R to R104.99 for those in high school, at Ackerman’s white shirts are priced from R79.95 to R139.95.

At PEP, grey straight leg long trousers range from R64.99 to R114.99, while at Ackerman’s they cost between R79.95 to R249.95.

At PEP black shoes range between R59.99 to R339, while at Ackerman’s they cost from R279 to R369.

Mamsy Mashilo, a single mother of three, who resides in Klipspruit also bemoaned the soaring school uniform prices after she spent more than R2 000 for her seven-year-old son’s apparel.

“I have just spent R1 600 on a few items. They are a pair of trousers, two long sleeve shirts and two short sleeve shirts, as well as a school jersey. I have also spent R450 for the tracksuit and school R200 for the school T-shirt,” said Mashilo.

She said government should come up with ways to assist low income earners.

“I am a single parent of these three kids and I support them alone. They don’t get social grants because I’m working but the reality is that my salary alone is not enough to afford their school uniform,” she said.

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