PETALING JAYA: Parents with children who are starting school in March are struggling with high costs and are hoping that the government will regulate the prices of educational necessities.
They are also calling for the RM150 Bantuan Awal Persekolahan programme cash aid to be handed out earlier, especially for first year students.
Twitter user @SyedAkramin, for instance, wrote that many school shoes, sold by brands which were once considered affordable, are now priced at above RM50 a pair.
“Three months ago, I raised the issue of expensive school shoes. Please set a ceiling price for children’s schooling essentials,” he urged the government.
In a reply, @Apei3011 agreed and opined that sports and uniformed bodies’ attire sold at school cooperatives should also have a ceiling price.
Single father @rjzfly said he spent more than RM1,000 for his child’s monthly school expenses.
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“For pocket money RM120, transportation RM450, home tuition and Quran recital classes RM500,” he spelt out.
Other parents also said they will need at least RM500 per child for basic school expenses.
Housewife Nurhafiza Mohd Ali said she had only completed half of the preparations needed for her eldest son.
“I estimate his pocket money will be about RM2 per day and RM300 for uniform, shoes and other items,” she said.
“For books and other fees, it’s about RM80,” Nurhafiza said.
“For now, we are just getting by with my husband’s monthly salary,” said the 33-year-old mother of three from Johor Baru.
For Budget 2023, Nurhafiza said she hoped that the government could distribute the RM150 cash aid earlier for first year students. “It will help parents like us with preparations,” she said.
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“Maybe the aid can be distributed together with the acceptance letter for first year students.”
Nor Atikah Abd Kadir said she estimated her children’s school expenses to hit RM500 a month and pointed out that she had yet to receive the RM150 school aid.
For the new Budget 2023, which will be retabled next month, Nor Atikah hopes the government will prioritise first year students in its planning.
“Assist by giving out free school bags, pencil cases and others,” she said.
A 50% discount coupon, which can be used at the school canteen would also help, she added.
Housewife Syazwani Mahalil said although she had made financial preparations for her eldest son, she was still feeling the pinch.
“I have prepared a budget of about RM300 for uniforms, bags, shoes and stationery for primary school, including religious school in the afternoon.
“I have also allocated about RM100 to RM200 for school books and Parent-Teacher Association fees,” said the 32-year-old mother of three who lives in Seri Kembangan.
She added that the family had started to feel the impact of rising prices after the reopening of the economy, especially on food items.
“We try to reduce our expenses as much as possible as we have a child who goes to preschool and a baby (on the way).”
“We eat out less and only buy necessities because we have to put the needs of our children first,” Syazwani said.
“I also sell things online for extra income,” she added.
A business consultant who only wanted to be known as Eva said she saves on school transport by personally doing it herself.
“It’s a blessing that I work from home so I drive the kids to and from school every day,” she said.
In JOHOR BARU, businesswoman Afiqah Ziela Asri is almost done with the preparations for her second son who is starting Year One.
She noticed that school supplies such as school uniforms and stationery are more expensive now compared to three years ago when her eldest son started going to primary school.
“In 2020, we spent about RM300 on our eldest son’s school supplies but this year, for my second son, we are looking at spending RM400 to RM500,” said the 35-year-old.
And their expenditure does not stop there. Afiqah Ziela said they will be spending RM80 per child every month on school fees, and RM1,560 for her two sons’ tuition fees for subjects such as Mathematics, Arabic (language) and Quran studies.
She added that she would not be using a school bus as she and her husband will take turns to send and pick up their kids.
“We are thankful for the RM150 government cash aid for every school-going child in the country. I hope that the government can increase the aid next year,” she said.
Tan Phei Wen, 35, whose eldest daughter will be starting primary school soon, said she had purchased most of the school supplies for the girl.
“I am leaving her school uniform last on our shopping list as kids tend to grow fast,” she added.
“We will only buy things that my girl needs to avoid excessive spending. This is in line with what we have been teaching our kids - to only buy things we need rather than splurge on wants,” said the accountant.
Tan, a mother of three, added that she planned to prepare a snack box for her daughter daily but would still give her RM1 as pocket money.
“I also hope the Education Ministry can look into providing lockers for students at every school to save the children from having to lug around their heavy school bag.
“With lockers, they can leave their textbooks at school and only bring back those they need for homework and revision,” she said.
Tan also hopes to see a change in weekend rest days in Johor from the current Friday and Saturday to Saturday and Sunday.
“My husband and I are working in the private sector, so we will surely lose out a lot of family bonding time when the school terms starts,” she added.
Johor observes working days from Sunday to Thursday, with rest days falling on Friday and Saturday.