Parents admit to buying back-to-school essentials featuring their children’s favourite brands and cartoon characters to help them fit in among peers — even if they are overpriced. Since all pupils in Kuwait are required to wear a uniform to school, many students see bags, shoes, pencil cases and stationery as an outlet to distinguish themselves from their peers.
With the new academic year at the doorstep, parents like Samia Mohammad, a Lebanese mother of three, said her children want to buy essentials that are on the ‘cool’ list. “As parents, we want bags, shoes and other essentials that are cheap and durable, but our children want things that are trendy. Last year, my son wanted a certain designer brand of shoes worn by some American basketball player. I ended up buying him those because I felt it would make him feel confident among his peers.” Though the shoes cost Samia KD 35, she did not mind purchasing them because despite being expensive, being a trustworthy brand they are durable.
“These sports brands are long-lasting so I don’t feel I am wasting my money,” said the mother who spends around KD194 on shoes, stationery and bags for her three sons and a daughter.
Syrian father Ameer Al Bari, who has two daughters, said he tries to find the middle ground in terms of branding and price of these products for his daughters who want bags and stationery that feature Disney cartoon characters. “They liked a Disney princess bag made from plastic, the price was KD15 for each. But plastic bags crack and are not practical. So I convinced them to purchase fabric Disney princess bags instead, even though they cost KD20 each.”
Al Bari said he spends around KD 77 on stationery, bags and shoes for his two daughters. He prefers to get them involved in the buying so they pick the items they like as he would like them to be excited about going back to school.
Ameenah Rehman, an Indian mother of one, who spends around KD 31 on stationery, bag, lunchbox, and shoes, said stationery costs are relatively insignificant. “I don’t think parents worry much about stationery costs because they are available and affordable. Instead, we are too busy worrying about school fees, transportation fees, uniform and book costs. When you compare stationery costs to them, it is insignificant,” she said.
She spends much of the KD31 on a bag and shoes chosen by her daughter who looks forward to purchasing Hello Kitty items every year. She also revisits stationery stores a couple of times a year because her daughter often misplaces erasers and other items. To cut down on stationery costs, parents said buying in bulk and using the items throughout the whole year could go some way in helping their budget.