Students are forced to pay up to 50 percent more for their breakfast due to the absence of observation on prices in private schools and universities cafeterias.
The price hikes average about 50 percent. Some cafeterias of private schools have increased prices by much more. In Saudi Arabia, price increases in malls and supermarkets are controlled. The Ministry of Commerce posted a toll free telephone number on its website for any complaints. However, food prices are only controlled in malls and supermarkets, not in private schools and colleges. Most schools rent their cafeterias out to a merchant. He brings in the meals and decided on the prices, regardless of the original cost price. Unfortunately, school principals don’t check the prices. They rented the cafeteria out for a high rent, so getting the rent money on time is their main concern.
Samia Mansouri, a Saudi former school principle of a private school, said that the continuous increase of meals’ prices is unwelcome to hard-pressed families.
“If school principals cannot find ways to protect the extra funding that has gone to school meals and increase the number of children using this service, there is a real risk of even more price hikes or a drop in standards. These would undo the progress that has been made over the past ten years.”
She added, “The current prices are high. Sometimes they even doubled or tripled. This will continue in the absence of observing officials.”
Samir A., a Saudi school principal in Jeddah, stated that the money the schools earned from the sale of meals has not kept pace with the cost of renting a cafeteria. Students and their parents should give the Ministry of Education enough time to decide what adjustments need to be made to serve healthy meals at a suitable price, he said.
Hnadi Fadel, a Saudi mother, complained about price hikes and said that her son, aged 10, spends about SR70 a week on his school breakfast.
“My son likes to have a cheese croissant and juice. In his school a croissant costs SR8, while the producing company sells it for SR4. He also buys a small size juice for SR5 in school. Its original price is SR2. Sometimes he buys a small size water bottle. It’s well known that a bottle of water in Saudi Arabia costs only one riyal, but in school it’s SR2,” she said.
She added, “If we reduced these prices to their original, the total cost of breakfast would be only SR7 per day.”
Suhila Swalmeh, a Jordanian housewife and mother of three children, said that the absence of supervision in schools caused many cafeterias to increase their prices, even when they offer products that are available in supermarkets at a lower price.
“There is a well known sandwich sold in all supermarkets for one riyal. In government schools these sandwiches are sold at their original price. In private schools the price has been doubled. I doubled my children’s allowances this year. The cafeteria increased all prices, even though the prices are stable in supermarkets,” she said.
Prices at Saudi state school cafeterias are fixed, but most expatriate students are studying in private and international schools. Here, cafeteria prices are too high and they offer mainly unhealthy meals.
Christina Qustantine, a Lebanese mother of two children studying at an international school, thinks that meal prices are too high in international schools.
“When I compare my children’s meals to those served in state school, the latter are healthier and cheaper meals. I wonder why supervision is absent in private and international schools cafeterias. I came to know that junk food is banned in state schools, but it’s available in international and private school at very high cost. Students have no choice but to buy these meals,” she said.
Christina said her two children, in grade four and grade six, spend about SR200 per week on meals.
Officials in the General Administration of public markets confirmed that the supervision of meals prices at schools is the duty of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Arab News attempted to speak to both ministries, but there was no response.