Not the write stuff: Stationery woes hit back-to-school pupils

Parents are having to scrape together every Rand they have as children are set to return to school very soon. File Picture: Brendan Magaar/Independent Newspapers

Parents are having to scrape together every Rand they have as children are set to return to school very soon. File Picture: Brendan Magaar/Independent Newspapers

Published Jan 8, 2024


It is back to school for pupils and many parents are now having to scrape together every last penny in preparation for school stationery and uniforms, with the pressure worst felt by the poor.

One calculation showed a grade 6 parent spending, a minimum of R500 on stationary alone.

The list includes hard-cover books, soft cover books, pencils, flip files, Pritt sticks, dictionaries, examination pads, scissors and more.

Hard-cover books were an average of R22, while pencil crayons cost around R59.

A box of photocopy paper, could also set a parent back over R300.

In light of these expenses and the impact on the poor, Hope for the Future founder Vanessa Nelson said they were calling on members of the public to “adopt a child, be the change” by sponsoring, clothes and stationary for those most in need.

The back to school initiative covers primary and high school pupils from several areas on the Cape Flats, including Heideveld, Blikkiesdorp and Bonteheuwel.

“The reason we’re doing it is because in most of our communities we have abject poverty. We have so many unemployed families who are struggling - single parents who lost heir jobs during Covid and are still struggling to recover. Children grow so fast. They may have a pair of shoes this year, but before the middle of the year they are broken.

“Stationery is often even more expensive than uniform. They even have to buy 500 ream printing paper. The demand on the parent financially is just too much. The cost of living is already so high. We are calling on corporates, professionals anyone one in a position to help to come onboard and adopt a child they can sponsor. The child needs to go to school so the impact on their life from any help they can get is profound,” said Nelson.

Meanwhile retailer, Pick n Pay, said it was stepping forward to support families, recognising many parents' financial plight,, particularly after a tough year and the traditionally challenging month of 'JanuWorry.'

Through its Smart Shopper programme, the retailer said it would refund up to R600 000 worth of stationery purchased at QualiSave stores onto customers' loyalty cards and reward up to 10 Pick n Pay customers with R50 000 each towards school fees.

“We are committed to making a meaningful positive impact on the lives of our customers in 2024, acknowledging the many challenges that the past year has presented to individuals and families. Through this latest initiative, we are providing customers with relief on the obligatory Back to School costs many are faced with this month,” said chief marketing officer, Andrew Mills.

Pick n Pay said its School Club was also planning to ensure around two million pupils are given access to additional physical education materials through its annual delivery of CAPS-aligned, grade-specific educational content to over 2 600 schools. This content is also made available online ( for free download. The club will also donate 34 000 pencil bags to Grade 4 pupils and do stationery giveaways with partners.

To qualify to win, Pick n Pay said its QualiSave customers must buy five or more advertised Back to School stationery items and Pick n Pay customers must spend over R250 on Back to School items advertised in respective leaflets before January 28, 2024.

To support the Hope for the Future, back to school initiative, Nelson can be contacted on 076 073 6777.

Tips for saving on school supplies:

  • If possible, consider buying in bulk—purchasing items like pens, pencils, and notebooks in larger quantities often comes with a lower per-unit cost.
  • Keep an eye out for back-to-school sales and take advantage of discounts during this time.
  • Generic brands can be just as good as name brands, and they usually cost less.
  • Don't forget to reuse items from the previous school year if they're still in good condition, and consider organising a school supplies swap with other parents.
  • Lastly, shop for deals online and use cash-back or discount apps to maximize savings.

Cape Times