September 1: New educational year brings challenges to children and expenses to parents

Tuesday some 48,000 first-grade students (6 year olds) entered 1,400 elementary schools in Armenia, flowers and balloons in their hands to start 12 years that will define their lives.

And while children are enjoying the festive day, with new schoolbags and clothes, parents are trying to recover from the First Bell blow against their family budget.

Narine Mkrtchyan, mother of three schoolchildren is hardly trying not to spoil the festive day by her complaints.

“It is difficult, yet what can we do? The shoes and clothes are already small for them, the bags are worn out. It is necessary to buy new ones,” says Mkrtchyan, who has spent 6,000 drams ($16) only on flowers (in keeping with tradition to bring bouquets to teachers).

According to average calculations, 10,000-20,000 drams ($26-53) are needed only for clothes to send one child to school, schoolbags cost 3,000-8,000 drams ($8-21), and shoes – 6,000-15,000 drams ($16-40).

Thus, according to the least expensive calculations, parents should spend about 19,000 drams ($50) to send a child to school, and if the amount for books, stationary and flowers (which are twice expensive on September 1) are added to that sum, it will become about 30,000 drams ($80).

“Very often because of this social situation, many children simply do not attend school,” says Seda Minasyan, a teacher for 15 years.

For the fourth year, the State assigns one-off allowance to each first-grade schoolchild from needy families of the Republic of Armenia. In contrary to the previous years when the sum was 20,000 drams ($53), this year it is 25,000 drams ($66).

In order to get one-off money, parents of a beneficiary family must submit an application, and an invoice from the school, which their child should attend, to the social service.

According to Astghik Minasyan, Head of Social Welfare Department of the Ministry of Labor and Social Issues of Armenia, this initiative essentially helped schoolchildren not to miss classes and attend school.