Staff Correspondent: The prices of educational materials, locally made or imported, have increased at a time when fixed- and low-income people are struggling to make both ends meet.
While articles such as pens, pencils and calculators have become costlier than before, paper prices have seen the highest increase, leading to sharp hikes in the prices of books, including additional textbooks recommended by the National Curriculum and Textbook Board, exercise books, photocopies and computer prints.
‘Education is getting expensive. I need to buy for my children stationery items worth at least Tk 4,000 each month for their school assignments and projects and homework. Each of my two children needs several pens, pencils, erasers, sharpeners, offset paper and exercise books, among other things, every week,’ said housewife Rahima Akter on Thursday, who has two school-going children, one of them a Class IX science student.
Visiting stationery shops at New market, Nilkhet book market, Gausul Azam Super Market and around Farmgate on June 26, 29 and 30, it was found that the prices of almost all educational articles, including pens, pencils, erasers, sharpeners, scales, geometric boxes, anti cutters, staplers, files, calculators, markers and exercise books had risen up to 15 per cent, or even higher in some cases, in the past 3-4 months.
The prices have increased mainly due to the dependency on import of the items or of the raw materials needed to manufacture them, according to traders and businesspeople. They also cited the high dollar exchange rates, sharp hike in the prices of paper pulp – needed to produce paper – increased freight charges and supply-chain disruptions due to the Russia-Ukraine war as reasons for the increased prices.
The rise in the prices of educational materials has put the poor and low-income people in a fresh stress, said affected people.
‘My husband runs a modest fruit business. The prices of all services, including essential items and transport costs, have increased. We have to spend about Tk 5,000 or more as rickshaw fare for our Class IX son to and from his school,’ Rahima said.
‘If the educational costs continue like now, I do not know whether we would be able to give our children a good-quality education, if not the best,’ Rahima further said.
Md Rakib, a salesperson at Tofazzal Book House on Indira Road near Farm Gate, on June 29 said, ‘The prices of almost all educational materials have gone up 13-15 per cent.’
‘Casio 991ES plus and 991ex scientific calculators are selling at Tk 1,800 and Tk 2,000 apiece, which were earlier Tk 1,700 and Tk 1,800,’ he said, adding that non-scientific calculator prices have also increased by Tk 30-50 per piece.
Md Shah Alam, owner of Pen Garden and Stationary at New Market, on June 26 said, ‘The prices of imported items, including pens, pencils and staplers, have risen 10-20 per cent. For example, a pilot pen now costs Tk 100, which was Tk 80 earlier.’
An imported Linc pen costs Tk 12, a medium-sized stapler Tk 150, a geometric box Tk 120-130, a clip board Tk 70, a stainless steel scale Tk 60, a sharpener Tk 10, a 300-page white exercise book Tk 75-80 and a 200-page one Tk 60-65, according to Shah Alam.
‘Locally-made pens, pencils, erasers and sharpeners have become costlier by Tk 5-10 per dozen. The rise in their prices has reduced our profit as we are not charging higher prices from customers for these items,’ further said Shah Alam.
Tanvir Ahmed, deputy general manager for administration of Matador, a major stationery manufacturer in the country, June 28 said, ‘All raw materials for the stationery items we produce are imported, except the labour we use. Hence, we had to increase the prices of our stationery products 2-10 per cent.’
Sohel Alam Suman, proprietor of Suman Paper and Stationery in Gausul Azam Super Market, on June 28 said that paper prices had been going up every month, sometimes twice a month, adding, ‘Each rim of 80 GSM white print paper made by Bashundhara and Partex costs Tk 2,700, which was Tk 2,500 in the previous month.’
One rim of Bashundhara A4 size 80 GSM paper is priced at Tk 350, which was Tk 300 in the past month, said the shop owner.
Some traders on June 26 and 28 pointed out that each tonne of A4 size 50-60 GSM paper sold at TK 45,000-50,000 in January, which now they had to buy at over Tk 1,00,000.
A master’s student at Habibullah Bahar University College in the capital city, Sadia Rahman, who came to Nilkhet to buy exercise books on June 26, said, ‘As a student, I need to stay within a limited budget. Earlier, a 200-page white print exercise book cost Tk 50. Now the shops are charging Tk 60-70 for the item depending on the paper quality.’
‘I have to get a lot of reading materials photocopied on a regular basis. As Tk 1.5-Tk 2 is charged per page, I try to read them online.’ she further said.
Abu Taher, who lives at Rupnagar in the capital, has two school-going children.
He said, ‘We are bound to buy educational materials as we want our children to be educated. But since I cannot stop prices from going up, I try to make sure my children use exercise books and pens without wasting.’
Iftekhar Ahmed, assistant general manager of Partex Paper Mills, on June 28 said, ‘The prices of paper pulp are volatile on the international market. For example, its price rose to US$970 from US$550 per tonne in January. We have, therefore, increased the paper price according to the cost. We now charge Tk 1,08,000 and Tk 1,12,000 for each tonne of white sheet paper depending on the variety.’
Aside from the increase in the pulp price, he added, a high dollar conversion rate and an increase in freight charges also compelled them to raise the paper prices.
Art materials, used by fine arts students, prices have also seen a rise as most of the items are imported from India and China.
A rim of cartridge paper is priced at Tk 2,700, one dista of newsprint at Tk 55-60, a piece of art paper at Tk 12, a 5ml camel artist water colour set at Tk 200, a set of acrylic colour Tk 600, said Md Majnu, cashier-cum-manager of Modern Stationary at New Market on June 26.
Campaign for Popular Education deputy director KM Enamul Hoque on Thursday said, ‘In order to fulfil the right to education for all, the state should strengthen the social safety net programmes so that poor families can bear the educational expenses for their children.’
The amount and number of student stipends should also be increased up to the 12th grade, he added.
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