Parenting is pretty tough right now. First of all, there were two years with the corona pandemic, when children and young people could not go to school for weeks and were stuck at home. Now inflation is nagging at the household account – and the right to education, one of the most important rights of all, is again at risk. This can be seen, of all things, in something as (supposedly) concise as bags, pencils and notebooks.
These training materials also become more expensive, in some cases even more expensive than filling the tank, heating and food completely. Exercise books and drawing pads, for example, cost an average of 14 percent more than a year earlier, not least because of the paper shortage, the Federal Statistical Office announced Tuesday. Just to remind you: the general cost of living only increased by eight percent during the same period.
Now you can say: all parents should probably be able to afford the few exercise books. That might be the case in normal times, though: even then, it’s hard for families who have to turn over every euro. 1.5 million children in Germany live on Hartz IV benefits. But times are getting really uncomfortable, financially speaking. And the school stuff is just one example that fits into an increasingly difficult puzzle.
Low-income families suffer the most from high inflation anyway, because the current biggest price drivers – household energy and food – play a particularly large role in their consumption. The nine-euro ticket and the fuel discount which mitigated this are now running out. Instead, life is becoming even more expensive for many in light of the rising gas price, the federal government makes no secret of it: an average household of four will have to pay up to 480 euros more per year.
The result: the social gap will widen again. And with that the gap in education – i.e. the children’s future prospects. Because there is, quite frankly, no doubt about how parents decide when the tight budget should be used for a maths lesson, a class trip, school books or exercise books – or for a couple of hot meals.
But it shouldn’t be a decision a family has to make. Because every person in Germany has the right to education, at least it is stated in Article 26 of the Basic Law. And it also says: “This education is free.” The idea behind this is that all children should have the same opportunities. Equal opportunities: It is such an important, true principle that must also apply in this day and age. And that this government should finally clarify completely and comprehensibly. Germany can and must afford it. If the parents are not financially relieved, there will soon be much bigger problems in education than they already are.
It starts with small things: Notebooks, books, pens, compasses, triangles should be made available by the state when parents finally can no longer afford these school supplies. This continues with participation, with excursions or school trips. And extends to the state’s information work. Child bonus, emergency aid allowance, catch-up programme, child allowance, school starter package – there are already a number of things that Germany does for its families. And for 2023, basic child safety has even been announced. Many initiatives, but they lead to an unfathomable jungle where it is particularly easy for those who actually need help to get lost: because they work too much, because they do not speak the language very well, because they take care of the children.
What Chancellor Olaf Scholz promised applies to everything: In these times, there will now be relief for those who have to count and do not have reserves. He would do well to fulfill this promise quickly – and indeed not to forget the millions of parents and their children.