Thousands of parents across the country have sacrificed their annual Christmas spending to prepare for the opening of schools, only 10 days away.
As some Kenyans moved around in search of clothes, foodstuffs and cake this past week to enable them to make merry on Christmas Day, some parents, especially those with children joining Form One next year, were queuing at uniform shops and moving in and out of bookshops to ensure they made some of the purchases that they would otherwise have done in January.
Unlike in the past when Form One students reported to secondary school beginning February, Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i has directed that they report on January 9. Ordinarily, parents would use their January salaries to cater for the needs of the Form One students but, with the reporting dates brought forward, parents have been left with no choice but to re-arrange their budgets to cater for the back-to-school requirements.
A spot-check by the Nation in Nairobi, Nakuru, Eldoret and Kisii revealed a number of parents were more concerned about their children’s school requirements than they were about what to buy for the festivities. Other parents were keen on beating the school shopping rush that follows Christmas festivities.
Ms Lorna Chemutai, a parent in Eldoret, had done back-to-school shopping by Friday.
“It’s better to deal with school first, then Christmas later,” said the mother of two. “I really do not want to spend all the money on Christmas then later start worrying where I will get money for January’s back-to-school.”
Mr Wilson Bett, another parent in Eldoret with two children in primary school and another in secondary, said experience had taught him to buy school items in advance.
LAST- MUNUTE RUSH
“I am avoiding the last-minute rush in which many tend to miss a lot of things. For me, it is education first and Christmas later,” he said.
In Kisii, Ms Jane Mogeni, who has two daughters in high school, said she had forfeited a lot because of the next school term.
“In past years, I used to take my children out and buy them new clothes to mark Christmas Day. But this time we agreed that we buy books and uniform because of the unfriendly economy,” she said.
Ms Mogeni said prices of stationery tend to shoot up when opening days are approaching, making it burdensome.
At the Josvvika Bookshop in Kisii town, Mr James Oigara was on Friday buying books accompanied by his son who is joining Form One in January.
Mr Oigara said he had budgeted to celebrate this Christmas in style, thinking it would take time before the Form Ones joined secondary, only for the Education Cabinet Secretary to announce that reporting will be in early January.
“I decided to sacrifice celebrating Christmas for education. So, this time round, my family will have to bear with the situation,” he said.
Nakuru’s bookshops and uniform shops received a considerable amount of traffic from parents and their children on Friday.
“My son is going to Class Eight next year and since he is in a private school, I have a list of books which, if I don’t buy in advance, I may spend the money on other non-essential items like new clothing,” said Ms Jacinto Othieno, a single mother of three.
The early shopping bug also caught some parents in Nairobi. At a Bata shoe store on Mama Ngina Drive, a number of parents were this week seen shopping for school shoes.
“Normally, we sell more school shoes after New Year but it appears to have turned the other way round,” said the store’s manager, Mr George Thiong’o.
Mr Thiong’o also revealed that shoe sales this year may not be as high as in previous years.
“Business is low this round compared to other years … We haven’t seen the numbers that will indicate we have had good sales,” he said.
Ms Philomena Wambui, who was selling Christmas decorations on Nairobi’s River Road on Thursday, said that although she was also not selling as much as she wished, the little spending from parents was a sign that the Education ministry was sending the right signals.
“No one is buying anything because their minds are on the school term. But (Dr Fred) Matiang’i should continue with his spirit. School is much more important to our children,” she said.
At the Prestige Bookshop on Nairobi’s Mama Ngina Street, a handful of parents were walking in and out on Friday afternoon looking for books for their children.
According to Mr Patrick Angwenyi, a customer care assistant at the facility, textbooks have not been selling as much as they have in previous years.
“I think it was because of reports that the syllabus was to change. Some parents have told me that they fear the syllabus may change all of a sudden. So, they have not been buying text books a lot,” he said.
Report by Elvis Ondieki, Vincent Achuka, Francis Mureithi, Gerald Bwisa and Nyaboga Kiage