School Supplies Or Groceries?

For some families, paying for supplies means cutting back on essentials
BY: STEPHANIE MCGLASHAN

While back to school time brings many new, exciting things – friendships, learning, activities, growing and community – it also comes with things that bring stress and anxiety for students and parents. One of the biggest stressors for parents: The cost of sending their kids to school.

Supplies, uniforms (which students in both public and private schools in Mexico wear), transportation, it adds up quickly. Though Cabo is one of the more affluent areas of Mexico, there is still a significant amount of poverty in the region and many families struggle to support their children going back to school.

2226school_0.JPGMexico decentralized the basic education system in 1992, with the intention of giving individual states more control over their education budgets and policies, and to improve overall administrative efficiency. The majority of schools are financially supported by the Secretary of Public Education (SEP); however, many states raise their own funds to invest in new teachers or schools. This funding is not overly generous and requires families to provide the majority of school supplies for their children – and sometimes even the school.

For schools that are on a very tight budget, additional supplies are added to students’ school supplies lists that are actually materials the schools themselves cannot afford. Things like printer paper and or cleaning supplies. In general, this is an accepted norm, but some parents see this as an injustice. In the case that parents do not abide by this demand for extra supplies, the students typically suffer as the school does not make up for the loss. Instead, they use what little they have or skip certain planned activities and lessons.

Even for those parents who view buying supplies for the schools as acceptable, the practice still causes them hardship. We talked to several who said that during the few weeks leading into school they have to move money around in their budgets in order to pay for school supplies (which can be as much as several hundred dollars), leaving less money for essentials, most commonly groceries.

One of the main issues for families with tight budgets is that they typically prioritize food and shelter over education. And some teachers believe that students aren’t able to fully concentrate in school because they have to work once school gets out. This places a high level of stress on the children and does not leave much or any time to do any sort of school work.

Overall, many parents don’t point the finger directly at the schools but instead the country as a whole. They think that Mexico doesn’t place enough emphasis and importance on school and higher education.

Mexico has made significant progress as a whole in the educational system but still has a long way to go, according to some of the parents we talked to. While some are rather pessimistic about it all, many parents have high hopes and see bright futures for their children in school.