The cost of education is high and when preparation for the new academic year coincides with the expenditure associated with calendar’s New Year, this must be a tough time for many families. FORTUNE STAFF WRITER, BROOK ABDU visits the main market in the city and finds out how the foreign currency shortage and other factors create the increased prices of staple school supplies.
Abdulaziz Mohammed and Tebarek Ali have small adjacent shops in Merkato around Kennedy Mall in which they see stationery items ranging from pencils to papers and pens.
The area around their shops is busy with people loading and unloading Isuzu trucks with some carrying cartons of papers and exercise books.
But this buzz is nothing in the eyes of the two shop owners at the corner of the row of shops. The market for this year in exercise books is very cold when they compare it with last year’s.
Abdulaziz and Tebarek have been selling stationery for the past eight years.
“I have not seen such a cold market through all this time; both the supply and the demand have declined, unlike previous times,” Tebarek lamented.
There are two kinds of exercise books in the market- the laminated and the non-laminated, more buyers preferring the laminated ones because of durability, according to the two traders.
“The price of exercise book is increasing significantly within a short time – even in the past 15 days there was a 50 cent increase,” Abdulaziz told Fortune, adding the specifics.
Before two weeks the wholesale price of a single exercise book used to be 7.50 Br while this week it is eight Birr, he said, explaining that the availability of exercise books at the distributors’ level is limited, resulting in the inflated price of the books.
Last year Abdulaziz and Tebarek received 400 cartons of exercise books for the Ethiopian New Year that marks the beginning of the academic year too. But this year, the amount that they received from the distributors is 100 cartons. One carton holds 193 exercise books.
Cognisant of the shortage of exercise books in the market, Hasset Wholesale Trade S.C. has imported exercise books that it is distributing to the buyers and retailers with priority given to the members that are a little over 1,500.
“We saw shortage and increase in the price of exercise books which made us think of selling exercise books,” Kinfe Legesse, the general manager of the company told Fortune.
The high cost was created by the shortage of exercise book that came following foreign currency shortage, Kinfe says.
“It is a little bit harder to find foreign currency from the banks,” he said.
The company sells only laminated exercise books with 100 sheets selling for 13.65 Br, 50 sheets selling for 7.65 Br and the 32 sheet for 5 Br.
Unlike exercise books, the market for pins, fasteners and staples, they say, is.
At another nearby shop dealing with the same materials, a woman was hotly bargaining with the shopkeepers to get a better deal.
“I have two children – one in grade four and the other in grade five,” she said, requesting anonymity. “The price of all school items has increased significantly.”
At the retailers’ shops in the city, exercise books sell for 10 Br to 12 Br.
In Merkato BIC pens sell for 3.30 Br at the wholesale points while the retailers buy for 3.50 Br from the distributors and sell for 3.70. Lexi has a varied price exceeding BIC selling for 3.50 at wholesale points and 3.70 at distribution points.
In addition to the pens and exercise books, Tebarek and Abdulaziz sell markers and highlighters that have also better markets at the start of the academic year.
Other school items that are in high demand during the holidays are school bags and uniforms. School bags sell for 150Br to 200 Br at shops around Amist Kilo- Kidist Mariam found on king George VI.
“There is not much demand from the customers,” says Haileleul Agazhe, looking at his friends shop until he comes from Merkato where he went to buy other products.
Bags at this shop sell for 160 Br to 200 Br. At other places around Kazanchis, there are bags that sell for 150Br to 260 Br.
Another market associated with the coming academic year is the uniform market. One of the major uniform traders in the city of Addis Abeba is WeTse Garment around Haya Hulet.
WeTse is preparing itself for the coming academic year by bringing in garments for the tailoring of the uniforms that will be required by the different students. It mainly makes uniforms for institutions, cafes, hotels and restaurants. It also makes suits and other clothing on order.
Elias Tewelde has been working there as a tailor for the past three years. They have been making school uniforms since June.
“As our market’s boom is between the months July and September, we made this preparation,” Elias explained.
The company has bought 100 rolls of different coloured cloth each measuring 23m.
Sitting on his Singer machine and sewing clothes in a shop displaying finished ready-to-wear clothes, Elias looks forward to a good market in the new academic season. Their school uniforms sell for prices as low as 45 Br, 58 Br and 110 Br.
One uniform can be made using a minimum of 1.50m of fabric and a maximum of 2.50m depending on the size of the person.
The garment shop does most of school uniforms on order but sometimes, they also hang ready-made uniforms in and out of the shop, on display for the potential buyers.
“Sometimes we make in the known sizes of children and hang the ready-made uniforms for display,” Elias Explained.
It takes three days to one week to deliver a uniform depending on the number of customers with appointments.
In terms of aggregate costs, for a new academic year, a family might spend up to 600 Br at a minimum to prepare each child for school.
The cost of uniforms increases as the children grow from primary to secondary schools. The number of exercise books also increases as the subjects that students in the primary education are fewer in number than those pursued at the secondary ones.
Fortunately, parents do not have to buy text books as the government provides for those who attend public schools. The private school students do buy books for only a little above the price that the schools buy from the government, adding the transportation cost they incur.
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