Traders cash in on back-to-school boom

Parents at a uniform shop in Nakuru, on Monday. Traders dealing in school items recorded increased sales.   [Photo: Boniface Thuku /Standard]


By Lonah Kibet and Mercy Kahenda

KENYA: Hundreds of parents and students thronged shops in Nairobi in last minute back-to-school shopping.

Long queues were evident at most shops as parents lined up to buy school uniforms and stationery for their children.

With threats of terror attack still real, traders were keen on security. They screened customers entering their premises.

School Outfitters shop along Muindi Mbingu Street tried to control rising queues as customers fought for space in the premises.

“The shop is stuffy and crowded but at least their prices are reasonable,” said a customer coming out of the shop carrying a metal box.

A South Sudanese couple at one Bata outlet buying items for their four children in Kenya’s schools said they did not shop earlier due to financial resources.

Cut down expenses

“We don’t get money at once. We have to wait for it from our country. So we are limited to shopping when we can afford. The dollar has also gone up making the exchange rate expensive. This becomes a challenge because we have to cut down expenses,” said Samuel Adieng and Amilia Deng.

Traders were excited about booming business. Mr John Muiruki, a uniform seller, said it was normal for their shops to be filled during school opening days but January is usually the peak.

“April and August back-to-school rush are usually not busy. Many parents like to buy new stuff for their children at the beginning of the year,” said Muiruki.

Many parents were constrained as they raised their children’s fees and fares. Some borrowed money from banks, while others had to take salary advances to make up for money spent during Christmas.

“By this time, my December salary is usually over. It was spent on Christmas celebrations. My only option was to apply for a bank loan because my salary advance was not approved due to the large number of requests from colleagues,” said Abraham Lagat, a parent of three.

Lagat said January was a nightmare to parents with children in primary and secondary schools.

Many banking halls were a beehive of activity as parents and students lined up to pay fees.

Trooped back

The situation was no different in Nakuru where hundreds of pupils and students trooped back to schools as parents made last minute shopping.   

Bookshops and uniform outlets and matatus recorded booming business. 

At Kenyatta Primary School, 50 pupils were admitted to Class One by Monday, meeting half of the 100 targeted students.

Teachers at the school said they were ready to begin work to ensure they finish the syllabus as the country approaches March 4 elections.

“Teachers are committed to ensure they work in line with the syllabus since schools will be closed during election time,” said a teacher.

Some students travelling to school were stranded at various bus termini. There was also increase in fares on most routes due to high demand of transport services.

Matatus travelling to Nairobi were charging Sh500 from Nakuru, up from Sh300. Those heading to Kakamega, Bungoma, Kisumu and Busia were charging Sh1,000.

Ms Ann Moraa, a parent of a student who was travelling to Mount Carmel Secondary in Bungoma said fare increase was major inconvenience to most parents who are recovering from the economic effects of the festive season.