Back-to-school expenses: Parents in UAE spend up to Dh2,000 on children's non-tuition essentials

End-of-summer and back-to-school sales offer some respite as residents can take advantage of numerous discounts and deals


Nandini Sircar

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File photo
File photo

Published: Mon 14 Aug 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 14 Aug 2023, 10:13 PM

With less than two weeks to go before schools reopen, parents in the UAE report spending as much as Dh2,000 per child on back-to-school expenses - not including tuition fees.

A significant number have already commenced shopping for these necessities, opting for either new products or seeking out discounts and pre-loved items.

Although numerous community WhatsApp groups and Facebook pages contain a multitude of messages on reused school items and offer for exchanging textbooks, parents argue that not everything can be acquired as pre-owned items.

American expat Naeema Zaki, whose three children go to an American curriculum school in Abu Dhabi said, “I am the parent of three school-age kids. The expense of uniforms for each child is Dh1,000, covering both their regular school attire and sportswear. In addition to this, my daughters are also involved in swimming, which adds an extra cost of Dh200 for the appropriate swimwear. Moreover, there are supplementary expenses for various accessories. Footwear alone could be around Dh200 or potentially higher, depending on the brand. Additionally, there are costs for items like socks, lunchboxes, and water bottles.”

Naeema and her children
Naeema and her children

She added, “Parents also need to acquire stationery items, which typically cost between Dh150-200. These expenses do not include electronic items like iPad or laptops, which might be necessary every couple of years.”

Echoing similar sentiments, Filipino expat, Ben Lebig said, “We don’t have hand-me-downs for our daughter, as Izabella is our only child. While we do factor in school expenditures at the start of every academic year but it's also incremental as children grow up. We typically spend Dh1,500 for new shoes and school uniforms, then Dh1,000 for books. That’s easily over Dh2,000.”


Private schools in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah were permitted to raise tuition fees for the 2023-2024 academic year, the first increase in three years.

Certain private schools in Dubai were granted permission to raise tuition fees by as much as 6 per cent.

“if you then include the first term bus fees it's Dh2,000. Then we have the additional incremental tuition fees as she moves from Year 9 to Year 10 this year,” added Lebig, who is a Dubai resident.

Curtailing costs

Another parent said that even if items like laptops are not purchased every year, children may require other types of electronic items that become mandatory in schools as children grow up.

“I bought my daughter an Apple pen which is mandatory in her school and costs Dh220 on Amazon. The Apple keyboard cost her another Dh150. This year I decided to take a friend’s daughter’s school uniform as she is moving to another institution. So, I have managed to save some money on that front. There are good promotions going on in shopping malls as well, on school items. I’ve bought shoes for my daughter as children outgrow these fast and become worn out quickly. So, shoes were around Dh200, lunch box Dh180, school bag was Dh150, and a water bottle cost around Dh90,” said Zoya Shaikh whose daughter is now moving to Grade 5 at Raha International School.

Zoya's daughter
Zoya's daughter

“Sports kit could be an additional expenditure. All this is of course excluding the bus fees, not to mention the tuition fees where schools are allowed to raise up to 3.94 per cent in the capital,” she added.

Nighat, who is a single mother residing in Sharjah, has two school-aged children now while two others have finished school.

With mounting costs, life for Nighat’s family has been difficult, especially after the summer break, when people typically need to incur school-related costs.

The Pakistani expat said, “My kids attend a school in Sharjah. My youngest child has always made use of previously owned items. Each year, I used to only purchase a single set of uniforms for my daughter but now she has completed her school. My sons routinely share clothes and other items. Without these practices, the expenses related to the back-to-school period could potentially reach up to Dh1,000 per child and even exceed that amount. Apart from that, they don't always buy textbooks which can be quite expensive. They share PDFs or photocopy stuff instead.”

Nighat's sons
Nighat's sons

Back-to-school offers

Meanwhile, residents are making the most of the shopping treat as summer sales continue across the UAE. As part of the Abu Dhabi Shopping Season that started on June 23, those in the country are availing of back-to-school offers that started from August 7 to September 10.

Over 3,500 retailers at 25 malls are taking part in the festival with unique shopping experiences and deals at popular locations including Yas Mall, Abu Dhabi Mall, Al Wahda Mall, and Reem Mall.

The Dubai Summer Surprise (DSS) offers up to 75 per cent discount on popular brands across more than 3,000 outlets. It has been running since 29 June and will go on until 3 September.

In Sharjah, a 65-day extravaganza is currently taking place throughout the emirate, featuring promotions, substantial discounts, entertaining activities, and valuable rewards. A wide range of discounts, spanning from 25 per cent to 75 per cent, are available on well-known global brands across Sharjah's shopping malls and stores.


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