How has the drought affected families and education?
2018 has provided one of the worst droughts that Australia has ever faced. Specifically, New South Wales and rural areas within Victoria and South Australia have taken the biggest hit. The consistent lack of rainfall coupled with the autumn and winter seasons showing record warming temperatures are the key reasons for this drought that is devastating the country.
The financial effect of drought on farm householdsEven without the consequences of this drought, the financial position of farming families is already inconsistent due to the varying effects of each season and other forms of unanticipated weather conditions.
The volatility of income for farmers is evident with last year showing record production levels where the gross value of farm production exceeded $63 billion. Within just one year, these farmers have experienced the most drastic changes due to worse than expected falls in crop production. Earlier in 2017, the average cash income for large scale farms was already projected to decrease by 10% to $191,000 per farm in 2018. This forecast assumed that there would be sufficient rainfall. This means that the extremely dry season is resulting in an even larger drop in income for farm households.
The struggle for these families to sustain themselves amidst this drought has far exceeded the expectations of the federal government. Funding for drought assistance of over $1 billion has already been depleted and the government has announced an additional $500 million to be funnelled towards the cause.
With government assistance being quickly exhausted, many organisations have stepped up to send more money to help our farmers. However, even these efforts are not enough with these households being exposed to a wider range of financial stresses that go beyond crop production.
The toll on children and their educationThe remote location of farms leaves farming families with limited options of where to send their children to school. Many are only left with the option of their kids attending boarding school. This means that parents are bearing the hefty price of not just tuition fees, but also boarding fees and the costs of travelling back and forth from school to home.
According to the Isolated Children Parents’ Association, farming parents are paying $17,000 to as much as $35,000 every year to send one child to boarding. This expense alone would eat up approximately 10 – 20% of farm cash income in 2018.
The government funding has attempted to address the ripple effects of the drought on education. In August 2018, the Federal Education minister announced that they would be allocating an additional $12,000 to the Farm Household Allowance for each family so that they could address expenses such as school fees. Again, such financial support is insufficient to meet the cost of boarding school, which is one of many problems for these families. This is especially so when thinking about the fact that families can be sending more than one child to boarding school.
Not having the adequate funds to pay for school fees on time forces many rural families to face the harsh reality of pulling their children out of school early. While this brings the problem of students not being able to complete at least their secondary education, it gives rise to other issues such as a lack of opportunity to exercise social skills and long periods of isolation.
How Edstart is helping farmersMany parents in these tough circumstances feel a great deal of disappointment when they struggle to provide their children with the education that they deserve. Here at Edstart, our purpose is to make sure that finance doesn't get in the way of education and that parents no longer feel undue pressure to meet such costs.
Our flexible and tailored payment plans is helping rural families keep their kids at school. We provide peace of mind that school fees are paid on-time whenever a family sends us an invoice, and parents make regular repayments to Edstart over a period they choose. This period can extend up to 5 years after the youngest child graduates from high school.
The ability to extend these repayments over a longer, more manageable period of time can lower a family’s annual spend on school costs. Having a consistent repayment amount makes it easier for families to manage their finances as well as shielding them from the expected inflation of school fees over the years.