With an incredible low literacy, Pakistan went into a tough situation when schools closed nationwide due to the Pandemic of 2020. It has to be the most entertaining time period for the students but the most terrifying one for the parents as their offspring’s future seems darker with every passing month. With every lockdown imposed, made every child further away from their educational growth.
Covid affected the learning of nearly 40 million students. With digital classes taking place, students no longer felt motivated nor enjoyed the learning process. It sadly resulted in increasing their screen time much to their parent’s dismay. The online classroom should have been fun but turned into a burden for parents as it interfered with domestic duties and they had to supervise their children while attending the online class.
It won’t be wrong to say that the quality of education was compromised. Children were at threat of dropping out and teachers actually needed to run campaigns to promote school admissions. In the past two and a half years, it has been a challenge for parents to keep their kids motivated toward education and learning. On the other hand, schools increased their fees. The hike in the price of school fees was astounding to parents who work hard to make ends meet. Unfortunately due to this parents had to take them out of school and provide them with home tuition. Home tuition didn’t really help much and it limited the social life of the children to the minimum, which led children to be more attached to gaming laptops exposing them to an unhealthy amount of screen time.
Due to the pandemic, and restrictions, parents couldn’t offer recreational activities to their kids, which led them to spend more time on computers and tablets. Due to a lack of social activities and mingling, children felt isolated and missed being at school with their friends.
According to research by the end of 2020 mental illness started showing up in children due to isolation and restrictions caused by the ongoing situation which was a concern for many parents. The school supplies got pricey as storekeepers increased their prices up to 100 % which was a shocking discovery for parents. In addition to expensive school fees, parents are left with no option, but to bear the hefty prices of uniforms, lead pencils, and fountain pens. When enquired about it, the stationary and uniform shop owners claimed there is a high rise in price due to rising in US dollars which make imported items pricey.
In today’s time, parents are striving hard to save every penny for their child’s future, and expensive stationaries are pulling them back from doing so. Just like office supplies, school stationery is an essential tool for a student. The reason for rising in price could be the cost of branding and customization that goes into the process of making a simple pencil look pink and fluffy. It is no hidden factor that kids are fascinated by cartoons and movie characters rather than books. The cost of printing and customization of these famous cartoon figures is not cheap, which causes an increase in school stationery prices.
The education tools have surely changed since I was a high school student. I remember going to a local shop near my house and happily buying an old-school set of brown pencils with a basic sharpener and erasers. Any brand of color pencil would do as long as it writes well on the surface of the book. These days when you step into a stationery store, you can see so many different sizes and shapes of erasers.
Once again, it’s the temptation that makes the sales. Having an eraser in the shape of a cartoon character that the kid likes or adores is the biggest achievement in his eyes. It goes without saying how they have managed to make a boring brown pencil look cute and appealing by adding a unicorn on its end. School bags are another jewel to a crown that parents can’t afford anymore. From trolley bags shaped like cars or a one-eyed character to an ice princess, the variations are a treat to a kid’s eyes and a nightmare to the parents. To be honest, I don’t remember being that obsessed over impressing my friends with my set of school materials, no idea where this obsession came from in children today but it is scary.
Well, it is not like I did not have my favorite cartoon characters on my stationery but I was ok with buying the simple plain boring ones. I did not have an obsessive need to impress my classmates. If you are also a 90’s baby then you understand what I am talking about. We would actually compare scores or try to bond over a basketball match but boasting over an ice princess lunchbox was the last thing on our minds.
As everything has gone digital over time, so has education. There have been some pricey additions to the stationary list for the school-going kids such as electronic calculators, tablets, and noise-cancellation headphones. Children have more awareness these days and they have their own personal choice of brands when it comes to choosing a set of color pencils or a uniform.
To be honest, in 2022, children don’t care about feeling threatened by one’s highest grade on a test but by the brand of the tools they use in their study process.
Uniform stores are another giant in the industry that are ripping off parents with overpriced articles of low quality. The reason for this could be the obsessive need of children to look more stylish or presentable like their ideal movie character. Sometimes it could be very surprising how two different categories can influence each other. Who can think that stationary and movies can be mentioned together in one sentence? Life is a funny thing but education is not! Children should be more focused on books and achieving their goals rather than choosing their educational tools based on some fictional movie character.
They should understand that no matter how expensive their lead pencil is, it won't help them build their future if they don’t know what to write on a question paper. School materials should only be treated as an accessory to education, not to their personalities. Nevertheless, the change is here and parents have to bear the price.
Other accessories which have a definite high rise in price are water bottles, thanks to the scorching heat from the sun. A kid needs to stay hydrated and parents obviously want to buy a good quality metal insulated bottle which can keep the water cooler throughout the day. School supplies vendors have also taken advantage of this and started selling high-priced imported water bottles.No one would have thought that school and stationery product sales would go higher tremendously.
The value of educational tools is very important for the process of learning. The store owners need to stop branding and advertising it to their little audience for their own set of benefits and sales. If you ask me this is a two-way traffic street, the store owners are branding their products this way because there is a demand from children to own such overpriced tools with the mania of impressing one another.
And no, I won’t blame the parents. Any parent who loves their children would want to offer them the world to entertain them, in most cases, it is movies or games.
However, I believe it is our whole society to blame on the whole. We want our children to be well-mannered and organized. While these two features are important for a decent lifestyle, sometimes we put excessive pressure on our children to live and behave a certain way. And the reason we do this is to impress others. We want others’ approval so desperately that we put pressure on our entire generation to achieve it. Our children are naïve and quick learners. They replicate exactly what they see playing in front of their eyes or hear from their ears.
So, on the outer side, the only problem that is highlighted is the elevation in the stationery prices or school fees but when you dig deeper you realize the problem is deeper and beyond a currency raise or Covid.
Education is a learning experience that should not be compromised due to any reason. It is a way in which a child’s future is built and shaped.
This is how they identify the potential and passion they want to follow. We should not label an exuberant price on their future nor should we hold them back by imposing the pressure of depending on the approval of others.