Parents struggling to find uniforms and school supplies for their kids

Costa Rica is suppose to have free public education. Parents running around now buying mandatory items for their youngsters might have a different opinion.

The economics ministry said that supplies and school uniforms might cost from 78,331 to 97,445 for each child. The ministry, the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio, does a consumer survey each year at the start of school. The range in dollars is from about $148 to $184.

Although various items may not be used for months, students are supposed to have all the required material at the start of the year. Each school issues a list, and teachers check the items.

One item in some grades is a plastic flute. Ministry surveys found a wide range of prices for the identical flute. In Almacén El Rey in San José, the flute could be purchased for 1,800 colons, but in Tres Ríos in the Pasoca store, the price was 3,475 colons.

That was a difference of 93 percent and the biggest found by the survey team that checked prices in 20 outlets. But there were plenty of other identical items that had price differences from 71 to 93 percent.

The biggest difference was in school clothes. A girl’s blouse could be had for 200 colons or for 7,900 colons. The average price was 4,786 colons. Naturally the qualities were different. Much of the school clothing comes from China.

The required articles also vary depending on the child’s grade level.

Some parents save money by swapping clothing with neighbors or fitting used clothing. The Ministerio de shopping012715Educación Pública has said that the use of used backpacks is permitted this year.

A number of expat organizations provide school supplies for children of low-income families as does the government.

The prices reported by the survey may include some for loss-leader items or in-store sales, and the prices also are affected by the individual store overhead and rent.

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