Now school supplies get pricier
"The prices of almost all stationery items have gone up, hitting us hard in the pocket. Even the price of a small-size notebook doubled to Tk 20 from Tk 10 in just two months."
The prices of stationery items and study materials have gone up significantly over the past two months, putting thousands of guardians, already struggling to cope with surging prices of essentials, in a tight corner.
Many of them say they are paying 15-25 percent more than what they used to pay two months ago for school supplies such as notebooks, exercise books, pens, pencils, calculators and geometry boxes.
The rise in such out-of-pocket expenses comes at a time when soaring inflation is affecting every aspect of life, said a number of the guardians in the capital.
Moreover, the recent increase in the fees for private tuitions and coaching also added to their sufferings.
"The prices of almost all stationery items have gone up, hitting us hard in the pocket. Even the price of a small-size notebook doubled to Tk 20 from Tk 10 in just two months," said Mir Hafizur Rahman, a guardian.
His two children study in a private school, and their education cost keeps rising.
"My eldest son's tutor used to take Tk 3,000 a month a year ago. Now the private tutor charges an additional Tk 2,000. The prices of all commodities and services have increased, but my income remains almost the same. What should I do?" asked Hafizur.
According to the latest Unesco Global Education Monitoring Report, almost two-thirds of the total cost of education in Bangladesh are covered by households.
There are more than four crore students from the pre-primary to higher education level in the country.
These correspondents visited several shops in Farmgate and Nilkhet areas over the past few days and found an upward trend in the prices of stationery items.
Saiful Islam, a salesperson at Lima Paper and Stationery in Nilkhet, said the prices of education materials went up by about 20 percent since the first week of July.
Another salesperson, Riaz Hossain of Dhaka Stationery in the same area, said all types of papers got pricier. A 500-page pack of paper now costs Tk 380, which was Tk 280 in July.
The prices of exercise books also increased by Tk 5-15.
Shopkeepers said they used to sell a scientific calculator for Tk 1,200 but now it costs Tk 1,600-1,700. The prices of geometry boxes and gel pens also went up significantly. Widely-used ball point pens, however, cost the same -- Tk 5.
Not only these materials, the cost of photocopying also doubled in just two months.
Md Nazrul Islam, a staffer at stationery shop Brothers Limited in Nilkhet,said they now charge Tk 2 for photocopying each page of a book or document, which was Tk 1 in the first week of July.
"We have no other alternative but to raise the price, as we now buy ink and other materials at higher prices," he said.
Book publishers forecast that textbooks, except for those published by the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB), and guidebooks or supplementary books might see their prices rise by 25-30 percent within a month.
Ziaul Kabir Dulu, president of Obhibhabok Oikya Forum, said, "All those guardians on limited income are struggling to buy education materials following the 20-25 percent rise in their prices.
"Many of them are worried that they would be forced to cut educational expenses for their children amid soaring prices of almost all commodities."
He also pointed out that private tuition providers and coaching centres have already increased their fees. A private tutor now charges Tk 2,500-Tk 7,000, which was Tk 2,000-Tk 5,000 a few months ago.
The Unesco 2021/2 report, released in December last year, said the prevalence of tutoring has increased in many countries over time. In Bangladesh, the share of households that paid for private tutoring rose to 54 percent from 28 percent in rural areas and to 67 percent from 48 percent in urban areas between 2000 and 2010.
Around 7 percent families in Bangladesh have to borrow to send their children to school, it mentioned.
KM Enamul Hoque, deputy director of Campaign for Popular Education, said the price hike of education materials might leave many guardians with no choice but to cut expenditure on food and entertainment.
"More alarming is that the rising education cost may lead to an increase in child marriage as well as child labour in remote areas," he added.
Anwar Hossain, the owner of a bookstore in Nilkhet, said the prices of different books for higher secondary, honours and master's levels already rose by about 10 percent.
Seeking anonymity, a former leader of Bangladesh Publishers and Booksellers Association (BAPUS) said they heard that many sellers of supplementary books increased the prices by about 15 percent over the last two months.
A guardian of a class-VI student used to spend Tk 2,000-3,000 on supplementary books while the cost was Tk 5,000-Tk 7,000 for a guardian of a higher secondary student, according to the ex-BAPUS leader.
BAPUS President Arif Hossain and Vice President Shamal Paul, however, claimed they have not yet raised the prices of supplementary books.
But the prices are likely to go up by 25-30 percent early next month, they mentioned.
They both said they need to increase the prices as the costs of all materials -- from paper to ink -- have gone up significantly.