As schools across the country begin to reopen, low decile schools have shared the struggles many families are facing – with some siblings sharing uniforms.
KidsCan provides snacks and meals, raincoats, shoes and sanitary items to more than 30,000 children at 787 schools nationwide.
It surveyed 210 decile 1-4 schools with many teachers saying students were absent because they didn’t have the supplies they needed – from uniforms to stationery.
“We had [four] boys attending on different days of the week and the excuse was illness… turned out they only had one school shirt so they picked their favourite day of classes to come. Mum was too embarrassed to tell anyone,” a teacher wrote.
Another wrote: “Uniform shared between four siblings. One child attended a day. Tight on the oldest and loose on the youngest. Stationary non existent.”
“Many parents do keep their children home until they can afford some books, uniforms also hold parents back,” one teacher wrote. “Some have to choose between feeding their children or stationery, and stationery will always lose,” another reported.
KidsCan chief executive Julie Chapman said the responses weren’t a surprise. In fact, the situation was getting worse every year, she said.
“We have certainly seen over the past year, the level of hardship getting worse, particularly around the need for food, clothing and feminine hygiene products … these are just core things that families want to have and should so that they can live with dignity but there just isn’t enough money to go around.”
Chapman said continued hardship for families impacted on the education of children who “should not have to worry about these things at this age”.
Chapman said schools detailed an increasing number of measures they were taking to support struggling families, including changing to cheaper uniforms with no logo, not charging fees, reducing stationery costs, and setting up payment plans.
Some went above and beyond, picking up children whose families couldn’t afford petrol, with teachers paying for stationery themselves.
She said uniform prices were prohibitive and said changes should be made to their cost.
Schools could also look at having basic stationery kits for pupils.