With one in three children coming from a low-income household, Viennese families struggle to meet expensive back-to-school requirements, according to a new survey (Arbeiterkammer Wien). For many, this gap is filled by Caritas Wien, which now supports 129,000 children in their preparations for the new school year, with two second-hand stores and a city-wide donation program.
“Education is the key to fighting poverty, which is why we must expand our support programs,” says Klaus Schwertner, Secretary General of Caritas Wien. The charity operates stores located in Floridsdorf (Carla-Nord) and Margareten (Carla-Mittersteig), while running a successful donation program, “children helping children”, with 29 schools in Vienna and the surrounding area. Before the summer holidays, 106 backpacks and 2,000 stationery supplies were assembled to try and meet the growing demands.
According to the AK survey, new backpacks cost between €70 to €240, while filling them with equipment adds another €250. Public schools are also introducing expensive extra-curricular activities such as class trips to the U.S. as part of language studies, and an increasingly popular requirement for laptops and tablets, which is taxing for families from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds, according to Roman Umschweif Roman Umschweif of the Association for Consumer Protection, in an interview with Radio Wien.
Affordable supplies from pens through bags to gym shorts can be purchased at the Carla-second-hand stores through September 7, although the efforts to achieve and maintain affordable education continues year-round through Caritas’ 54 learning cafes that offer after-school tutoring throughout Austria. The public is invited to support the program either through donations or as volunteers regularly invited to join the process.