Dh135 for fleece jacket? UAE parents say school-branded winter uniforms a 'waste of money'

These clothes must be bought from designated stores or tailors sanctioned by the schools with specific logos and design

by

Nandini Sircar

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Photos: Supplied by parents
Photos: Supplied by parents

Published: Thu 25 Jan 2024, 4:54 PM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jan 2024, 10:56 PM

Winters in the UAE are relatively brief, with January 12 and 24 being the season's peak in the Gulf heritage calendar. Given the short cold spells the country experiences, many UAE parents consider spending on school-branded winter uniforms to be a waste of money.

Residents explained that they find the high price of school uniforms a concern and look for other ways to keep their children warm. Although winter clothes may not appear to burden the family budget, parents highlight that even after spending around Dh2,000 at the start of the academic year on uniforms and school supplies, any supplementary expenses do pinch. They also underlined that children will likely outgrow these clothes by the following winter.

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There are numerous community WhatsApp groups and Facebook pages to acquire pre-loved items, but parents argue that not everything can be bought second-hand. Meanwhile, institutions insist that students wear proper school uniforms with the brand/logo on them.

Upsize uniforms

French expat Christine spends Dh1,700 at the start of the year on her 11-year-old daughter's school uniforms. Her daughter goes to Raffles World Academy (RWA), and Christine said, "We have no choice but to buy from the Zaks shop, and her uniforms are available only in one of their outlets in Oasis Mall. Every outlet caters to different schools."

Christine's daughter
Christine's daughter

She added, “We have sweaters from last year for my daughter, as I try to buy one size bigger so she could wear the uniforms two years in a row. A sweater costs around Dh126, and you would easily need to buy at least two of them. The winter jacket is only from Grade 12, which is Dh136.50 and made of fleece.

“What I buy the most are the shoes; I buy two pairs twice a year. The white shoes for PE are a nightmare; they never stay white. It becomes grey very fast. So that’s an additional expenditure that I incur.”

Typically, these uniforms can be bought solely from a specific retailer, and for numerous parents, it stands out as one of the priciest essential clothing items they will buy for their children.

Ben Lebig's daughter
Ben Lebig's daughter

Filipino expat Ben Lebig said, “We spend annually around Dh1,000-1,500 mostly on sweaters and jackets with school logo. Parents lack options, particularly when raising a single child without siblings, to pass down outgrown winter clothes. These winter uniforms must be bought from designated tailors sanctioned by the school with their logos and design, so there is no other alternative.”

Parents buy fewest necessary pieces

Even in affordable schools, the expenses can easily amount to hundreds of dirhams, sometimes putting a financial burden on families. Therefore, it often comes down to parents trying to figure out the few uniform items their children can manage with.

Ami Rasheed, mother of two children aged 13 and eight, said managing school expenses proves challenging since essential needs must be met without much room for reduction.

Ami Rasheed's daughter
Ami Rasheed's daughter

“This year, we minimised expenses on winter uniforms since our children could reuse items from the previous year. However, having a son and a daughter necessitates purchasing distinct sets for each. The combined cost of winter jackets for our daughter and son is approximately Dh160. Apart from these jackets and ear caps for cold protection, we refrained from additional purchases.”

Pre-loved uniforms

Some parents have discovered alternative methods to find these winter uniforms.

Arijit Nandi, whose son is in Year 3 in an IB curriculum school, said, "My son's school organises a sale a few times each year where pre-loved uniforms are available. During these sales, my wife has come across various uniform pieces, including jackets, priced as low as Dh40. While these items may not appear brand new, I don't mind, considering my son mainly uses the jacket in January and early February. Instead of spending Dh130+ on a winter jacket or Dh260 if you want to buy two, getting them at a significantly lower cost is practical.

"Alternatively, the school allows plain navy blue jackets. So, when we travel to India for the winter break, we purchase a couple of these jackets at Dh90 each, which is still a more economical option than what we would spend here if we were to go to the designated uniform stores," he said.

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