Back to school lark a costly lesson

By Kate Stewart


As a single parent to the life forms, I have no problem admitting that I absolutely detest this time of year.

If ever I needed confirmation that kids are not cost-effective and that our so-called free education is anything but, the whole back-to-school lark sure does hammer it home.

With three teenage boys, all less than a year apart (crap family planning, I know), I recall the first year they all attended school together, costing me in excess of $2500.

You blindly believe it's just going to be the cost of uniforms, a few school books and pens and a school bag. It's not long before you get an education into the real cost of everything required.

Take it from me, it is a far from pleasant learning experience which, if you happen to be low income, is set up to ensure you fail.

Allow me to rattle off the "real" list of what you are expected to provide.

This could take some time people, so sit back and make yourself comfortable.

Here goes: Summer uniform, winter uniform, PE uniform, summer sandals, winter shoes, exercise books, pens, pencils, ring binders, lecture pads, clear files, memory sticks, scientific calculators, graphic calculators, text books, school photos, homework diaries, course fees, protractors, compasses, erasers, glue sticks, scrap books, note books, protective book covering, dividers, book labels, pencil cases, marker pens, corrector pens, coloured pencils, felt tips, swim bag, towel, swimsuit, lunch box, drink bottles, back pack, student ID and locker hire.

Let's not forget the cost of daily bus fares, petrol if you drive them and/or the cost of a bike, bike helmet and ongoing running repairs.

Add to that the so-called voluntary donation that you are constantly reminded of when overdue account notices arrive in your letterbox with regular monotony. No pressure, yeah right.

Factor in too all the events the school hosts like shared lunches, concerts, mufti days, sausage sizzles, class trips, fundraisers ... all of which require a minimum of a gold coin donation, with some school outings costing up to $150 and beyond.

Even the dreaded lunch box, or more specifically its contents, can prove a financial challenge for even the most experienced budgeter, especially when the life forms eat like horses.

Still the list is not complete, there are costs associated with some after-school sports, haircuts to abide by school rules and guidelines, exam fees, NCEA fees and ongoing uniform and shoe costs, coz as we all know kids grow like weeds ... are you still awake?

Yes, there's more, let's not forget the optional extras like blazers, formal uniform wear and, depending what courses/subjects your kids opt for, there is stuff like specialised art supplies for example and it's just a matter of time before iPads/notebooks are compulsory too.

Now that's just for one child, so in my case multiply it by three then times it by a further five, for the number of years I hope they will be in school, and you are now looking at a minimum figure of $12-15,000.

Is it any wonder that I find myself in the corner of a room, curled up in the fetal position, tearing my hair out and cackling hysterically?

I'm not sure what the answer is or even if there is one to be found, but I do know that something has to change.

The words "free education" need to be expelled or at the very least suspended.

If the financial burden of educating our kids cannot be alleviated or lessened substantially a sad reality may be that student loans will be necessary as early as intermediate school.

That would qualify as a giant fail in my book.

For those of you who can relate, in closing I have come up with a very quick "Back to School" quiz just to lighten the mood.

Good news, everyone passes with honours.

1. All students are now required to have tablets in school, do you?

A: Whip out and buy the latest iPad B: Whip out a kidney and trade it for an iPad C: Whip out to your local drug dealer and buy some Ritalin.

2. The old School C and UE have been replaced by what?

A: NCEA B: NCIS C: Something far worse.

3. In school, students often draw on?

A. Paper B: Themselves C: The bathroom walls.

4. Complete this sentence: The school Dux ...

A: Is an academic achiever B: A swotty nerd C: Are in the school pond.

5. Your child needs to know that you will still support them if they?

A: Fail to make the sports team B: Fail an exam C: Fail a drug test.

WAFFLE'S BONE OF CONTENTION

This week it's with the ill-educated TV presenters who somehow manage to turn a one syllable word like HOUR into two - OU-WA.

It sounds like CA - RAP!

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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