1,500 euros in school fees for her three children: Valérie is angry, “they are completely crazy!”

The cost of living has risen dramatically in recent years, and the school sector is no exception. When she received the total amount to pay for teaching materials for her children’s next school year, Valérie couldn’t believe her eyes. “It goes against everything that is being said at the moment about ecology and recycling”. The increase in the price of paper could explain this explosion in the cost of school fees.

Valérie, 50, is a mother. She lives in Walhain in Walloon Brabant with her husband and three children. Next September her big boy starts secondary 5 and her young twins go to secondary 1 in Gembloux.

The last school year ending, Valérie received a letter from the school with information about mandatory fees and school supplies for the start of the first year. By compulsory fees, the school means the cost of photocopies and the various compulsory excursions and activities. And there is the shock for Valérie. It is no less than 330 euros, which she must pay per childonly books and mandatory fees count: “It should be even more than that, but I decided not to take the recommended dictionaries”, she told us after contacting the editors at RTL info via our orange Alert Us button.

Dictionaries are part of the list of books that students must have at the start of the school year. If Valérie has decided not to acquire them, on the other hand, she has no choice regarding the exercise books: “37 euros for a math book that you can’t buy used! I would never buy a book at that price for myself.” She must pay 215 euros per child for their books for their return to high school. The mother contacted the publisher of these notebooks to explain her situation and obtain a reduction, to no avail. He was also advised against buying used: “A new edition is published every year, with modifications, and in any case the students must take note of it in the notebooks, so that it is not possible to resell”.

Where is the ecology in all this?

The mother knows that free is too much to ask, and that is not what she is hoping for today. She wonders more about the ecological side of these approaches: “We bother with recycling, we have to be careful with our consumption in all areas, but for mathematics we can buy a book for 40 euros, which we cannot use”. It is the lack of rehabilitation opportunities that angers her. The cost of photocopies as well. Of the 118 euros needed for “mandatory fees”, we find 40 euros in photocopies for the year: “They are completely crazy, it’s a scandal, I don’t know who they take us for!”.

The price of paper is rising

One of the explanations is the increase in the price of paper: from 45 to 100% in one year, depending on the type of paper. We told you a few months ago that this increase is due to the paper industry, which is energy-intensive and consumes a lot of gas. The latter has increased by 25% since the invasion of Ukraine. The publishing world is therefore affected, resulting in higher prices for comics, books and… school notebooks. For the last quarter of 2022, Belgian publishers plan a significant increase, “from 5 to 15%“, assesses Benoît Dubois, director of the association of Belgian editors.

I don’t know where to get this back for school fees

To these initial costs it is also necessary to add lunches and bus passes among others. These will cost him 140 euros per child. “I don’t know where to get these back-to-school fees.” Valerie works as a sales assistant in a company, she and her husband receive reasonable wages, but this amount scares her: “We will arrive at a return of more than 1,500 euros for my three children”. A back-to-school grant package is awarded to families, but Valérie is not convinced: “It is nothing at all compared to the amount we have to pay, I will receive a little more than 250 euros for my three children”. She adds that school fees were lower a few years ago: “At the time, the bookstore even provided part of the discount it received from its suppliers…”.

Spokesman for Education Minister Caroline Désir, Jean-François Mahieu, was contacted by our editors regarding the issue of school fees. He explains that there has already been free kindergarten for a while and the idea is to move towards this free in the upper years.“A supplementary budget request was made by the minister to extend the free primary school measures during the last conclave. Unfortunately, this request did not succeed, for various reasons, but certainly not because it is not a political priority in the eyes of the minister. In this regard, the continuation of the ​​the work on modeling cost ceilings for school trips in primary schools remains well planned. This modeling is currently undergoing a new update thanks to the survey carried out at the start of the school year by the Family Association. In the coming months, the minister’s aim is to be able to present a more complete proposal for regulatory ceilings for education stakeholders .

An explanation that will not satisfy Valérie, but which may give hope for the future.

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