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Back-to-school: Financial burden on several families
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 27 - 08 - 2013


Renad Ghanem
Saudi Gazette
JEDDAH — Many Saudi families are now facing a tough time covering the back-to-school expenses after a long summer vacation, and the Ramadan and Eid break. Limited income families are most affected by the back-to-school expenses. Many families tend to borrow money during this time just to meet their needs.
The salary of limited and low income employees range from SR3,000 to SR7,000 a month. Ahmad Kamal, a father of three and working in a private company on a total salary of SR7,000 a month, said: “I cannot bear the school expenses for my children. I had to limit school expenses to the most important stuff only and wait for my next salary before I buy the rest. Ramadan and Eid were two very busy seasons for spending. I came out broke.”
Maisaa Muhammad Abdulrahman, a mother of three, said that most families do not plan for the back-to-school season. “We see many families struggling to come up with cash to shop for their kids for school. That cash was spent during Ramadan and Eid. They never think of saving some of that money for school,” added Maisaa. She said that she was well prepared three months before Ramadan and was saving some of her salary in a special bank account just for school fees and expenses.
Mahmoud Saleh, a Yemeni father of three and working in a private company on a salary of SR6,000, said two of his children are studying in a private school. He said that the tuition is increasing year after year and he is struggling to come up with the money. “The best temporary solution is to borrow money from close friends and relatives. More often than not, these friends and close relatives are themselves struggling to come up with the money to pay for their own children.”
Mahmoud Saleh said that he shops from stores south of Jeddah and in the two riyals shops because that is the only price he can afford. “For limited income people the best place is the two riyals shops. I know it is low in quality but it fits my budget,” he added.
Speaking to a local daily, Nasser Al-Aqeel, head of operations of Jarir Bookstore, said that the prices of school materials and stationery did not increase compared to last year. He said that there is an increase in demand in school bags by 30 percent.
Most of these bags, he said, are made in China. He added: “The two riyals shops are providing low quality materials. Owners of the two riyals shops care about profits more than they care about quality.”
An average family with two children spends around SR1,000 on buying books, notebooks and other materials. Abdullah Al-Shehri, financial manager at a book store in Riyadh, said that the stationery market is worth SR2.5 billion and is increasing annually. He said that there is an increase in demand for school bags while the demand for notebooks is declining because of the increasing dependency on computers.


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