BEIRUT: With the prices of gasoline, clothing and food on their way up, it’s no surprise that the cost of sending kids to summer camp is also steadily rising.
“The economic situation” is the phrase many camp administrators use to justify the increases of 10-20 percent since just last year.
According to Ghina Zaza, a social activity coordinator at Green Field College in Beirut, the school had to raise its fees because the summer camp employs special monitors who receive high salaries.
“We also have a swimming pool, which needs expensive material, [and] a special coach to teach kids swimming,” Zaza said
Green Field College raised its camp fees from $260 last summer to $300 this summer, an increase of more than 10 percent, and the six-week summer camp also has an additional fee of $190 for bus transportation.
“There are also extra charges for outside trips, because [this is] another package,” Zaza said.
Lebanese American University in Beirut runs a summer camp and according to Bushra Hajj Badran, the school’s coordinator for educational programs, the price increased 11 percent since last summer.
LAU now charges $770 for their six-week camp, while four weeks runs for $615 and two weeks for $400.
The local students who come to LAU’s summer camp are from Lycee schools, College Louise Wegmann, International College, Rawdah High School and other private schools, while more than half of the campers come from abroad, including the United States and the Gulf.
The bus fee is another hefty charge, ranging from $50 to $150 inside Beirut, and $77 to $233 outside the capital. The higher prices haven’t affected demand, though. “The [number of] parents registering their kids hasn’t changed from summer 2010 to summer 2011,” Hajj Badran said.
Meanwhile, Beirut International School has seen a decline in the number of kids applying for this summer, with camp fees jumping dramatically from $450 to $550. At the same time last summer, there were 50 to 60 children signed up, compared to 40 this summer.
Wassim Masry, BIS coach and summer camp supervisor, attributed the drop-off to financial difficulties and said the school had to increase its fees to keep up with inflation in Lebanon, which jumped 6 percent in May.
The school’s program includes outside activities four days a week where campers can go swimming and visit the country’s tourist sites.
The summer camp program price of SABIS, the International School in Shoueifat, has increased “slightly” since last year, according to an administrator. It offers a six-week program for $625 plus $230 for optional English courses, and a four-week session for $495 plus $150 for optional English courses.
The program has children spend three days inside the school, where they take part in art, football, educational games, Taekwondo, computer and dancing. The other two days offer outdoor activities where kids visit tourist and other summer sites. Again, bus fees are extra, and range from $90 to $180.
Rania Atwi, the Summer Day Camp coordinator, said demand hasn’t been affected by the increased fees, although some parents complained while others simply encouraged the school to carry on with its activities.
“Many students come from schools outside Lebanon or from Lebanese schools like Louise Wegmann, and we have many kids who come from Sidon,” she said.
The Oasis summer camp in Ain Saade has raised its tuition from $230 last year to $260 this summer, a more than 10 percent increase, although the price drops slightly for each additional child enrolled from the same family.
Rawdah High School is in the middle of its summer camp, and the registration period is still open.
“We’re waiting till the registration is over. As you know, the economic situation is sensitive, so the number of parents’ involved in summer camp has decreased,” said Kassem Safadi a PE teacher at Rawdah High School.
Meanwhile, Sagesse High School has decided to help parents this year by creating a free summer camp, but it’s a coincidence more than a policy.
According to the school’s social coordinator, Nadine Abi Rashed, the school had summer camp indoors last year, but this summer they are holding outside activities because the school is undergoing renovations.
“The parents responded positively to our program and were excited to put their kids in a safe summer camp without paying money,” Abi Rashed said.
Ali Abi Haidar, a 58-year-old professor of law at the Lebanese University, enrolled his kids in a summer camp at the Jeunes Amis du Sport club in Baabda, where prices have only increased from $215 to $225.
The bus fee comes to another $80 per child for the eight-week camp.
“The rise is possibly due to the high demand of parents who want to put their kids in summer camps and therefore they had to increase the prices,” Abi Haidar said.
Rania Moukaddem, a homemaker whose children attend Sallama summer camp in Tripoli, also commented on the price jump, which was up a whopping $60 from last year’s $210.
“I think this is a lot for one-month summer camp. I live in Abu Dhabi and the summer camp prices there are the same,” Moukaddem added, while also noting the significant difference in wages between Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.