Cape Town-140112-Ezam Bopape (7) - [Grade 1], Unam Dano (13) - [Grade 8] & Koketso Bopape (6) - [Grade R], all try on their new school uniforms at their home in Guglethu, for the start of school on Wednesday. Reporter: Chelsea, Photo: Ross Jansen

Cape Town - Back-to-school time brings home to parents the harsh reality of having to recover from festive season spending to fork out the funds for the costs of their children’s education.

Public schools start on Wednesday.

For Sibongile Bopape, a mother in Gugulethu, the start of this school year has been especially tough, because all three of her children are going to new schools.

The youngest, Koketso, is off to Grade R at Surrey Primary School in Athlone, while her sister Ezam starts Grade 1. The oldest, Unam, is starting Grade 8 at Cape Town High.

On a new school parent’s shopping list are uniforms, stationery and textbooks – which can come at a hefty cost. While these can be crossed off the list at the beginning of the year, school fees and transport costs are a year-long expense.

Unam’s taxi to town costs R13. That amounts to R26 a day, and R130 a week.

“We’re still trying to figure out what we’re going to do for transport,” Bopape said. “The taxi is the safest; it drops her right at school. We are just working out if the bus might be a cheaper option.”

The two younger girls will be part of a lift club with a private driver who will take them to school. Their transport amounts to R900 a month – R450 each.

Stationery shopping for Bopape’s Grade 8 and Grade 1 daughters was not finished yesterday, and had already amounted to R1 000. For Grade R, the school makes up a stationery pack that costs R75.

Textbooks must still be bought, but that can be done at the schools’ second-hand shops, which will be open during term time.

There was a levy just to register the girls at their new schools, which tallied to R2 000 for all three.

“It is so much pressure,” Bopape said. “I can’t educate myself, because I must sacrifice for my kids.”

For years, she has wanted to study for a diploma in human resources through Unisa. She told herself this year would be her chance – but mounting school expenses have crushed that possibility.

“I believe that most mothers go through the same thing. They put their kids before themselves.”

She works at UCT, and no further qualifications means she cannot advance in her job.

“No increase next year for me,” she said. “I am stagnant in my job.”

Bopape said that if she and her husband, Antonio, hadn’t planned in advance for school expenses, it would have been a “disaster”.

“We no longer celebrate Christmas,” she said. “We’ve tried to be stingy this year. Now we just pray for more benefits from the schools.”

Meanwhile, the Western Cape Education Department has been preparing for the new school year.

Spokeswoman Bronagh Casey said 130 schools had received a “maintenance makeover” during the holiday period, and three schools had each received a new building.

Volunteer teams had been cleaning up school premises, making sure that “windows and doors have been mended and that ablution and playground facilities are spick and span”.

Any parents who have not yet enrolled their children in a school should contact their local school immediately or call the department on 086 192 3322.

[email protected]

Cape Argus