what price education?

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Old men can ‘make war’, but it is children who will make history. But what happens when children are constantly put into difficulty? What happens when they are being forced to do things that they are not used to? This is the situation in Sri Lanka. Due to the prevailing economic crisis, all of Sri Lanka is facing hardship. However, adults can manage to cope with the difficulties. Nonetheless children cannot. Since the ‘Covid – 19’ pandemic started to spread through the country like wildfire, the country was locked down keeping each and every citizen confined to their homes. Children of our country were requested to learn from home making ‘online class’ a new phase. Even though it was hard for students at the very beginning they adjusted to it with time.

However, at the moment when they are finally ready to begin a new phase in education, they are faced with a new challenge due to the crisis. While studying requires a student’s complete dedication, there is one other factor that would help a student to fully enjoy studying and that factor is having the right stationery.

This is absolutely essential for a student. When studying exercise books, pens, pencils, paper and other items must be available for students.

Rise in price

With the sudden paper shortage that arose due to the forex crisis in Sri Lanka, the price of an exercise book has increased by 30 – 40 per cent since last year. A majority of the students use the ‘CR Exercise book’ which now costs around Rs 300 – 400.

When Ceylon Today inquired about the prices of basic stationery from a well-known bookshop in Thalawathugoda, they said prices have skyrocketed in the past couple of months.

“Prices of some stationery have increased by 50 per cent compared to last year.  Prices have never increased like this ever before. Usually when prices increase, it normally increases by Rs 5.00 or Rs 10.00. Prices have amplified, especially exercise books compared to other items since May. However, items like erasers and pencil sharpeners have also increased by 50 per cent” they said.

“According to our suppliers the paper shortage has caused the sudden price increase in exercise books. When we buy items from a supplier we get a dealer discount. Since the crisis began the discount margin has decreased. However, we cannot be unfair to the customer. We have to sell the items for a reasonable price because the customer needs to be able to buy the products. Therefore, compared to the previous year we are facing some kind of a loss in our business. If the loss is roughly calculated it’s a loss of 5 to 7 per cent”, they said.

They also said that a parent has to spend around Rs15, 000 to buy a Grade 1 student’s books

according to the book list, however that is without the text books.

“Government students have access to text books because they are being provided for. Students who attend International schools have buy text books in addition. It will cost them a fortune to buy these books as prices have increased. When compared to last year it is an increase of 75 per cent. Sometimes when customers buy items, they are put into a difficult situation because of the high prices. It has come to the point where parents cannot even afford to buy school books for their children. Many parents are looking around to purchase second hand books to cut down on cost. Some parents do not buy the whole list in one go. They only buy the essential items; some students are compelled to use their siblings’ belongings”, they stressed. However, bookshop owners contend that it is the customer that matters and they at all cost would try as much to satisfy customers keeping their profits low and would always be fair to them.

A mother of two students said that it is very hard for her to provide for her children. She said that buying exercise books every few months for her two children was an expensive business and found it hard to cope with the situation.

“It is not only the books. They need pens, pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners, every now and then so it has now become an exasperating task. Even though I can afford to buy these items, it is still hard with the present crisis”, she said.

According to these statements, it is clear that the price hike in stationery has put buyers and sellers’ budget into disarray. With the price hike in fuel, vegetables, fruits and all the other essentials, now a parent has to think twice before buying stationery for children. This does not concern only the parent but also the children. Every child likes to use new items. It is only fair that a child should be able to select what they want and purchase it when it comes to items that will enhance their education. 

By Aloka Kasturiarachchi