Schools are back in session, but parents find themselves burdened by the rising education costs. Some have opted for public schooling for their children, but even that is proving challenging. As the City Administration falls short on exercise book deliveries, parents have been forced to navigate Merkato to buy out-of-pocket supplies, quickly diminishing their limited resources. The City's past attempts to increase enrolment and reduce absenteeism led to the establishment of an agency tasked with providing school uniforms, meals, and exercise books to students in public schools. Although the Agency boasts a budget of 3.2 billion Br and has seen expansion over four years, its effectiveness is under scrutiny.

With enrolment expected to increase by 100,000 this year, the demand for school supplies, particularly exercise books, has surged, leading to the importation of six million exercise books under the Agency's supervision. However, late deliveries in the past year, attributed to printing and forex issues, have raised concerns among parents and city officials. The pressures on the supply chain are evident in Merkato, where wholesalers offer exercise books between 30 Br and 44 Br, starkly contrasting to the 55 Br provided by the state-owned Ethiopian Trading Businesses Corporation (ETBC). Major importers such as Al-Sam Plc have adjusted their prices. Domestic producers such as MAMCO, a MIDROC Investment Group subsidiary company, have not produced an exercise book this year, attributing it to forex shortages and declining demand.

Close to 13 million Ethiopian children are missing out on education this year, according to UNICEF, which blamed the combined impact of COVID-19, conflicts, and climate change. As the ripple effects manifest, vendors in areas like Sidamo Tera, known for school supplies, lament dwindling sales. Suppliers who used to serve buyers from conflict-prone regions, now find themselves with excess stock and fewer buyers. Parents' woes are not limited to just books and pens. The rising fuel costs have directly impacted school transportation fees. The "Sheger" school buses, operated by the Addis Abeba City Bus Service Enterprise, once a more affordable alternative, have seen fees almost triple. Parents, caught in this financial tug of war, are left to make difficult choices, with some even protesting the exorbitant fees.

Prominent voices in the education and economics sectors are sounding the alarm on the country's precarious situation. The unpredictable environment impedes market stability, making a timely supply of essential educational materials challenging. As Ethiopia grapples with these overlapping crises, the quality of education and the future of its youth hang in the balance.

You can read the full story    here    

PUBLISHED ON Sep 16,2023 [ VOL 24 , NO 1220]

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