What an unusual year it has been thus far, causing a delay in back to school plans this session for students, parents, and school bodies. A pandemic swept across the world and changed our lives in a way that we could never have imagined. The educational sector has faced the most profound changes; our children have been homeschooled for months through online learning, radio, and television.
Many schools continue to maintain distance learning but many others will reopen for physical classes this month. Governments, school proprietors, teachers, parents, and the students themselves have been forced to innovate and create workable solutions. As physical schools begin to reopen, I hope we will merge the various forms of learning; not losing the life-changing skills that so many parents, teachers, and students have gained by embracing technology at this time. Technology is key to fast-tracking our development and education is a critical component for us to realize our goals.
Every new school year presents huge opportunities for children, along with some challenges for parents. The academic year comes with significant costs; school fees, uniforms, supplies, and all the paraphernalia that must be paid for. For most parents, particularly at this time with finances stretched and some job losses; it can be a huge challenge to prepare for children to go back to school.
Here are some things to consider as you prepare for the new term:
Ideally, parents and guardians should have started planning for the school year long before the resumption date. When you shop early, without the pressure of time, there’s no rush and you can take advantage of sales. When you wait until the last minute, most items will be at full price.
Indeed this is probably the most expensive time to shop for the school year. If there are some items that your child doesn’t need right away, you can decide to wait for when unsold inventory is being sold at discounted prices.
Review the school list
The school supply list can be quite daunting. Go through the list critically. Does your child really need every single item on the list? Check to see what your child brought home at the end of the last term; you will be surprised to find that there are many items at home that can be used this term so you can avoid wasting money or duplicating items.
Make an inventory. It is important to keep track of what you’ve actually bought. Keep a list and give one to your child as they leave for school.
Children should be accountable for their belongings and at the end of each term, should be expected to bring them back home largely intact. Unpacking when they come home and ticking off the items that could still be used for the next term is a good idea. To encourage this habit, some parents give a small reward to children that respect, manage, and care for their possessions.
Prepare a budget
Most people cannot afford to buy every single thing on the school list. How much money do you have to spend? Set out a budget for school supplies including school books, lunch, the school bus, uniforms, allowance, and so on. Shop with your list, prioritize, and stick to it.
Going through the school list with your child is an opportunity to teach some valuable money lessons. Talk through the difference between wants and needs; there may be standard trainers that the school recommends for PE, which will be compared with the much more fashionable high-end trainers that they would rather have; this provides strong lessons in costs, prioritizing, and budgeting. It is a good idea to go along with them for some of the shopping trips.
Hand Me Downs
Uniforms are essential and are a constant part of a school-shopping list. Every child would love to have a brand new uniform each year but where there are older siblings who attended the same school, it makes perfect sense to hand them down to a younger child if they are in good condition, even if you can afford to buy new ones. Some schools offer second-hand uniforms in perfect condition for a fraction of the cost but many Nigerian parents, are embarrassed by this. Don’t be.
As children go through the same stages year on year, one can find second-hand books in good condition. When handing in your book list to the shop, request that they check for available second-hand alternatives in the correct edition listed on the book list. Talk to friends and relatives with children who have just completed the year above.
So many parents find that they can do book swaps. Children should be taught to protect their books, so they can be used by others after them.
Buy in Bulk
Some people advocate buying school items, such as stationery including pencils and notebook paper, in bulk. This can lead to waste so be careful. This technique is most effective for households with multiple students. For single-child families, consider doubling up with others for extra savings on basic supplies. If you buy too much they will get lost, lent out, given away, misplaced, or just never used.
Buy Quality over Quantity
It is tempting to buy a cheap school bag, lunch box, or water bottle, but what may seem cost-effective now will just fall apart in no time at all. It pays to spend more on good quality, sturdy items that will last for a long time.
Quality and durability are key as opposed to being trendy or having the “latest” version. Children face enormous peer pressure and when they start school and see that their friends are all using the latest version, they are embarrassed. It is important for parents to take the time to talk through these challenging issues as they seek to raise confident, well-adjusted children.
Send them to School Healthy
Before your children go back to school, see to it that they are healthy and have had all their checkups; eyes, teeth, and general health to avert any festering problems that could cause them to miss classes. The premium on a family medical and dental insurance plan is a small price to pay to ensure that have access to the best medical care. We all know packed lunches prepared at home are much healthier and cheaper than the fast food alternatives.
The Coronavirus has not disappeared, but we must learn to live with it for the foreseeable future. Whilst your child’s school is obliged to enforce the COVID-19 protocols, the onus is on you to ensure that they understand how to protect themselves and others by wearing face masks, washing their hands frequently, using sanitizers, social distancing, and sneezing or coughing responsibly. Without being healthy, they cannot learn effectively.
The Most Expensive School may not be the Best
Today’s harsh economic climate has left thousands of parents struggling to pay for their children’s education. If your child is bright and talented, there may be opportunities for scholarships and bursaries, which should be explored. But where you have run your numbers, cut back on family expenses, even sold assets, and are struggling to meet your obligations, it is time to have that serious conversation about withdrawing from a particular school and enrolling in a cheaper option.
For many parents earning naira and with children being educated abroad, the exchange rate and availability of foreign exchange make it increasingly difficult to maintain children abroad. Be careful not to jeopardize your livelihood and retirement plans to pay exorbitant school fees at all costs. It will be worse for everyone if you go broke!
Whatever you decide, the key to successful educational planning is to plan and take advantage of the various products available including long-term educational plans, investments in property, etc. Start to plan for your children’s education from the time that they are born; this gives you the advantage of the time to plan and prepare effectively for this important obligation. Your child’s education is the greatest legacy you can leave them.
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Nimi Akinkugbe has extensive experience in private wealth management. She seeks to empower people regarding their finances and offers frank, practical insights to create a greater awareness and understanding of personal finance.
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