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Parents buying school uniforms for their children at the Pony Uniform store in Sharjah Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai/ Sharjah: With many parents opting for distance learning for their children when schools reopen on Sunday, one question that is doing the rounds is whether they are saving on uniforms and school supplies. As things stand, wearing school uniform is not compulsory while attending online classes.

Jamela, who enrolled her son in Grade 1 at an Indian school in Sharjah, told Gulf News she has saved at least Dh500 from not buying new school uniforms and supplies for now.

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“One school uniform set comes for Dh80. You also have to buy a few undershirts, a tie, shoes and pair of socks, plus a school bag and lunch box – the total would be around Dh500. But since classes will only be online, we did not spend on any of this,” shared Jamela, adding: “It’s a small amount but a big help especially in times like these when every dirham counts.”

School uniform is not mandatory for online classes, but students are required to wear smart casuals.

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Parents buying school books at the Al Munna Bookshop Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Sheela Menon, principal at Ambassador School Dubai, where more than 80 per cent of parents opted for distance learning, said: “During online learning we don’t insist on school uniform but the general setup should resemble a classroom and there will still be proper routine for students.”

Some other parents, however, have complained that schools have already charged them for school uniforms, in anticipation of conducting face-to-face classes in the second term.

An Indian mother whose son attends a British school in Sharjah said she paid Dh450 in uniform fees last week. “My son is doing distance learning for the first term and I thought I could pay for the uniform in the second term but the school has charged upfront. I had been hoping to save this money for some current expenses,” she noted.

Another parent told Gulf News whatever savings she got from not buying school uniform and supplies went to hiring a nanny for her daughter and stocking up on face masks and hygiene kits.

Afrin, a mother of an incoming Grade 2 student in Dubai, said: “In our case, not spending on stationery, school bus, after-school day care etc. has not accounted for any kind of saving as we ended up hiring a nanny to take care of our daughter.”

“On top of our ‘usual’ expenses, we also had to buy face masks, hand santisers and other hygiene kits. We opted for 100 per cent e-learning, but my husband and I are both full-time working parents and our expenses have been almost the same at the end of the month,” Afrin explained.

Uniform suppliers too had a mixed response.

“Because of the threat of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it was not a good start to what should have a busy academic year for sales of school apparel,” said Ahmed Ruhel, a staff at Ladies Corner Trading, a popular retailer of school uniforms located in Karama.

“We have seen around 80 per cent decline in sales of school uniforms compared to last year,” he added.

However, Bethel Ann Tesado, a sales staff at Threads Burjuman, a school supplier, told Gulf News that sales have picked up over the past few weeks, making up for the previous months.

“We are actually hiring sales assistants and IT executives. We have ready-to-wear uniforms from China and customised uniforms stitched at our workshop in Jebel Ali,” she said.