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Back to school in Spain

September is a busy month for parents in Spain who must track down long lists of books and supplies as well as shoes, uniforms or new clothing and a million other things before the school year officially begins. Every September we have the usual race for school text books. Back in the “old days” (just a few years ago), parents were still responsible for tracking down every school book every year. Now, that has gotten better at state schools, at least. Parents are still responsible for purchasing books with state vouchers, but there is a sort of rotating schedule that means you don’t have to purchase all the basic books every year. At private schools parents receive no subsidy for books – even though they are also paying taxes to support the education system. Therefore, they must still purchase books every single year. This could be avoided if the private sector would organise itself like the public has – so that books belonged to the school and were a shared resource instead of one to be continually replenished every single year. (Such a huge waste – but it continues because the textbook publishers do everything in their power to protect this tidy big business they’ve created.) School books aside, there is also a long list of materials that every child needs. It took me years to realise that many Spanish parents simply leave the material list with a “papelería” (Office Supply Store) and then pick up the materials in a single package when they are ready. For years I trekked from shop to shop trying to find every item on the list. My favourite unbelievable school supply item has always been the “punzón”. This looks like a pen but has a thin metal tip. It’s used for punching little tiny holes in paper, basically for creating a sort of perforation. What’s it used for? Children use it to perforate along a line or the outline of a picture in order to develop fine motor skills. In my estimation, however, the “punzón” is a potentially dangerous little tool – especially when you consider it is used by PRESCHOOL children! (Watch out for your eye!) Culture shock aside, its September again. And once I tick everything off these long lists and get the kids back in school, I’m going to count the days before I start receiving new lists of supplies for this project and that. At least I’ve solved the problem of lost items of clothing: he who loses replaces. We haven’t had that problem for years now!
Blog published on 7 September 2009