Parents in the UAE are frustrated over having to buy low-quality, overpriced school uniforms for their children year after year and said schools should ensure that reasonably priced uniforms are available.
Many families spend thousands of dirhams every year on school uniforms, bags, shoes, caps, PE and swimming kits.
Susan Flaws, a 41-year-old British mother in Abu Dhabi, said she spends about Dh3,000 every year on uniforms, PE kits and schoolbags for her 11-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son.
“The frustration is that we pay huge amounts of money for uniforms and the quality is just not there,” Ms Flaws said.
“We tend to buy multiple items of uniforms which turn out to be very expensive.
“I would like to see more companies offer uniforms at more economical price points for all schools in the UAE.”
She suggested putting a cap on uniform prices across the country.
“It would be amazing if education authorities in the country can offer guidance so that families are not charged more than a certain amount for school uniforms,” she said.
Ms Flaws said that having more economical options for uniforms would reduce financial stress on families.
The stay-at-home mother complained that the quality of uniforms was sub-par, though they were priced much higher than school uniforms in other parts of the world.
“The uniforms tend to stain quite badly and you cannot remove these, whether it’s from paint or marking pens,” she said.
“Back in the UK, I can get two pairs of trousers for Dh45. It’s so much cheaper in other parts of the world.”
In Abu Dhabi, she said her son's uniform trousers cost Dh120.
Parents have to purchase uniforms from a designated provider, she said, and added that she had been cautious about spending on school uniforms last year and bought fewer items.
At private schools in the UAE, a pair of school trousers cost about Dh100-130 while shirts retail for about Dh70-Dh100. Schoolbags cost about Dh100, while shoes sell for between Dh150 and Dh200.
Sharrah Khilawala, a 34-year-old public relations consultant in Sharjah and a mother of two, said she found school uniforms expensive and a financial strain.
She said making generic uniforms available at stores across the emirates would make life easier for parents.
Her 5-year-old daughter’s school requires her to purchase the uniform at a particular store, she said.
“The cost and the quality are both frustrating,” Ms Khilawala said.
“Having an option to buy affordable uniforms is very important for parents whose children are younger.
“There should be more options as opposed to a monopoly and we should have the freedom to choose where to buy the uniform.”
Children who are younger outgrow their uniforms very fast, she said.
Ms Khilawala said that she spent between Dh400 and Dh500 on two sets of uniforms every year, but after purchasing hair bands, ties, stockings and cardigans, the costs added up.
She said that she had bought her daughter's uniforms last year only to have her child attend school for around 10 days every month after the school adopted a blended-learning model in the second term.
Ola Uwaezu, 32, a homemaker and mother of two girls aged 4 and 6, said she found school uniforms in the Emirates to be “ridiculously priced”.
“At my children’s school, I pay Dh95 for a skirt. Back home in the UK, that money would probably buy me five skirts of the same quality,” she said.
“It’s the same thing with shirts. The quality is bad and they shrink. It’s terrible value for money.
“There is a definite monopoly over the school uniforms and there is nothing you can do, really.”
Ms Uwaezu bought the essentials at the store designated by the school and bought cardigans, socks and other items at stores of her choice.
This year, she bought three shirts, two skirts and two sets of physical education uniforms, which cost her Dh600.
Lulu Akkila, an Emirati working mother of five and chair of the advisory board at the American Academy for Girls in Dubai, said she spent close to Dh5,000 on school uniforms every year for her school-going children aged 8, 9, and 17.
“It does have a financial toll,” Ms Akkila said.
“When I first got my daughter's uniforms, I was shocked by the amount. I remember I bought the uniforms for Dh3,000 at the time.
“For someone who has four or five children, that’s a big amount.”