At six they carry 4 kilograms on their shoulders

First graders. How expensive they are, and how difficult their life is

In September academic year begins everywhere – on September 1, 15 or 20.  About 260,000 children entered school in the South Caucasus. 

Which made their families happy and proud. But there is no way to avoid the substantial expenses the occasion demands – on textbooks, bags, clothes etc.

How much the families in different regions of South Caucasus had to spend on their first graders?

As usual in JAMnews reviews, the cities are listed in alphabetical order and in local naming, which bears no connection to the position or opinion of the editorial stuff.


30 degreesabove Celsiusin shadow is common in Baku in September. They call the season “the fig heat” – figs enjoy heat and get ripe in September. For this reason the beginning of the academic year in Azerbaijan has been moved from September 1 to 15.

The national currency is highly volatile at the moment, that is why the families have struggled to have the kids equipped for school in advance. The sellers at the stationery shops say the prices have been growing since early August.

In Azerbaijan, 156,877 became first graders in September, 2016.

They all received free textbooks at school, or at least had to. Some schools ask the families to purchase textbooks, as the budget funds are insufficient.

Then come obligatory “supplementary notebooks” – the same A4 size, as the standard textbooks, in soft cover for about $3 each.

Some elementary classes teachers try to make life easier for their pupils and let them do without supplementary notebooks, but they are few.

The families are also to purchase manuals and guidances on all subjects, including music, painting and even physical training.

All necessary books amount from $15 (the case of a liberal teacher skipping the supplementary notebooks) to $40 as an average.

Pencils, pens, ruler, pencil box, glue, color pens and pencils, - all that will cost you from $15 up to $70 in case you shop for trendy pencils and funny notebooks at “Grafika”.

At public schools the uniform is obligatory, it is universal nationwide, and the price cannot exceed $30: blue checkered skirt (trousers for boys), blue vest and jacket. White shirts create a problem too: they are not to be bought for less than $10 ($25 for quality things) in case one has been provident enough to buy them at a New Year sale.

For first graders at private schools the uniform is to be ordered at a sewing studio for the twofold minimum price.

The sportswear prices vary depending on schools and teachers. Some demand white T-shirts without prints and black shorts, but under no circumstances the price is likely to be less than $10.

The same goes for the white shirts – some schools rules do not allow laces or any “feminine” elements on girls shirts, the rare and expensive things.

The bags prices vary from $20 to $125 for an orthopedicbag.

The economy budget to send a first grader to school in Azerbaijan:

  • Textbooks - $15
  • Stationery - $15
  • Form - $40
  • Sportswear - $10
  • Bag - $20

 Overall: $100

This is the sum not to be cut. Quality clothes (three cotton shirts and a pair of leather boots), attractive felt-tip pens and a bag, that is easy to carry, raise the budget to $500.

First graders bags weigh from 3 to 5 kilos, those of the seniors – up to 7 kilos.

Baku, 15 September, 2016


Areg is one of 40.000 kids in Armenia to attend school on September 1 for the first time in his life this year. His mom has been helping him to prepare for the day. Let us see, just how expensive the Day of Knowledge has turned out to be for the family.

First Areg chose a school bag with an image of his favorite hero, Spiderman. But with all the stationery packed it weighed over 4 kilograms. To make things easier for Areg his mom opted for the bag on wheels ($30).

Then came the necessary accessories:

  • 10 thin notebooks: $1
  • 10 standard notebooks: $8
  • Pencils: $4
  • Erasers: $1
  • Ruler: $1
  • Schooldiary: $1
  • Pens: $1

 Important notice: 1 to 4 graders receive free textbooks at school.

Areg`s white shirt was bought for $21, trousers - $30, shoes - $30, sportswear - $25, sports shoes - $27.

Areg`s mother has spent around $150 on the preparations. This is an average budget on the occasion. It may vary substantially  depending on the parents possibilities and eagerness.

Yerevan,31 August,2016


The number of schools in Abkhazia has diminished by three to 156 this year – the Education Ministry has closed down the schools in the Gulripsh, Ochamchir, Tkvarchel districts because of low attendance (or complete absence of pupils).

The schoolchildren will get free transportation to the neighboring schools. Teachers have been employed in other schools, the Education Ministry head  AdgurKakoba says.

 First graders in Abkhazia this year number 26611.

 Education is free inAbkhazia, nevertheless preparations for school do not come cheap.

First comes the school uniform. Trousers, a jacket, a couple of shirts and a pullover cost about $80. The girls uniform is by $15-20 as expensive.

The average schoolbag price is around $60. The stationery (pens, pencils, notebooks, pencil boxes, paints, rulers etc.) cost around $45.

Most textbooks are provided free of charge, but the families often have to purchase them because of short supply for an average price of $5-7.

Additional manuals and guidances cost an average of $45.

The families are also to pay for the classroom renovation. Painting the walls, the ceiling and more often than not installing the window frames cost up to $2.000. The sum is usually shared among the parents.

Most schools in Abkhazia are in need of capital renovation or air conditioning installation, AdgurKakoba recently told the journalists. Sometimes, though, sponsors come to help.

Average expenses on a first grader in Abkhazia amount to about $150.

Sukhum,1 September, 2016. Photo by Ibragim Chkadua


Mate is 6, and he is going to school this year. Mate has had everything ready two weeks before the festive day. The new trousers, blue shirt, shoes and socks have been waiting in the drawer for everybody to see.

The blue schoolbag with the Spiderman in his famous pose has been prepared too.

Nino Kemularia has spent the equivalent of $106 to buy everything her son might need at school. Pens, pencils, books, notebooks, paints, plasticine for molding,  pencil case and other stationery cost her $33, schoolbag - $$20, clothes – $65.

In Georgian schools all first graders are to find a present from the Ministry of Education – a miniature “Book” computer with downloaded learning materials.

Though the textbooks for the public schools are also provided free of charge by the Ministry of Education, Nino chose to buy the new ones for Mate. “At school they give the children the books that have already been in use, and insist, that they do not spoil them, write on them or rumple. I believe, a kid should enjoy books experiencing no pressure”, Nino says.

The textbooks for elementary grades cost $3-7.

“The bulk of the clients are the parents of the kids, who attend private schools. The public schools pupils parents also come, since the books that are being handed out in schools are to be returned intact. But the books wear out anyway, however cautious you are. Then a kid gets penalty points and subsequently an even more worn out book”, a seller at a bookshop says.

The average price of a special notebook, a supplement to every textbook, is about $3 

The minimum price for a schoolbag is about $20. The sellers note that this year the bags on wheels are in high demand, that cost $30-35.

With schoolbags getting heavier every year and weigh now no less than 5 kilograms, the wheels are a help indeed.

Some parents found the solution in buying two of every textbook, one for school and one for home. But not every family can afford paying extra for making a schoolbag less heavy.

Alexander Djedjelava from the Ministry of Education claims, that heavy schoolbags are one of the most serious problems his ministry is working on.

Paper of less weight for the textbooks and introduction of electronic books are viewed as the solution.

“We are developing the project in cooperation with Microsoft and others. Obviously, every family will make a choice of their own on the electronic books for their kids. But having an alternative is a must in XXI century”, Djedjelava said.

In Georgia, 61,000 kids were admitted into the first grade, including 53,000 in public schools and 8,000 in private ones.

Tbilisi, 14 September, 2016. Photo: khatia Gogokhia


 In South Ossetia 750 kids are to attend school for the first time this year, which is by 30 more than in 2015.

 Preparing a boy for school modestly will cost his family around $3.000. The sum includes the suit, 2 shirts,shoes, sportswear, schoolbag, paints, colored pencils, stationery, craftsmanship accessories. The budget does not allow the quality clothes.

Natural leather and absence of synthetics raise the budget up to $500.

Mostfamiliesbuyorthopedicbagsthatcostaround $70.

A dress, a bow and an apron for a girl will save the family up to $50. 

The Ministry of Education plans to supply the school libraries with new books this year and to provide textbooks free of charge starting 2017.Now a family buys the set of textbooks for a first grader for approximately $80.

But all the pupils in South Ossetia are entitled to a free breakfast – a bun and a cup of compote or kissel. Full-fledged lunch is for those who stay in the day-care centers.

The opinions expressed in the article convey the author’s terminology and views and do not necessarily reflect the position of the editorial staff.



AliyaHaqverdi (Baku), InalKhashig (Sukhum), KhatiyaGogokhiya (Tbilisi), JAMnews (Tskhinval), LucySargsyan (Yerevan 15 September 2016 - 02:38