Taking the load off young shoulders
According to a study conducted last year, nearly 60% of students under 10 years of age are facing dire consequences because of the weight of their school bags. An insight into the issue…
A burning issue ever since 2008
The discussion on the issue of lighter school bags for children has never really been off the table. The significance of lighter school bags for children was first brought to light in the year 2008 when CBSE chairman Vineet Joshi penned a letter addressed to the Heads of Institutions directing them to adhere to the number of books prescribed by the NCERT for students upto Class VIII. He also recommended keeping the school books for children in Class II in the school itself.
A few years down the lane, in the year 2015, the problem (of heavy school bags) raised its head once again. The Centre was all for lifting the weight off fragile shoulders as it recommended designing timetables and child-friendly school bags that are both comfortable and lightweight in nature. In the same year, Maharashtra State Government put a cap on the school bags of children at 10% of their bodyweight. Needless to say, the verdict was widely appreciated by parents.
More recently in April this year, The CBSE issued a fresh set of proposals, such as, lighter reference books for senior students among others. However, the fate of these proposals can be evaluated only as the year progresses.
The issue has always managed to make its way into leading newspapers and editorials.
A mixed bag of success and failures
Even though the government introduced a number of initiatives in June last year with an aim to lighten school bags, ironically, not much has been achieved in the direction as action has been incongruent with the policies that were formulated under the school bag policy of Government Resolution (or GR), wherein the Centre made promises about coming up with tabs, e-school books and semester-wise books that will facilitate students as far as the weight of their school bags is concerned. On the contrary, parents and students can breathe a sigh of relief as the Maharashtra State Bureau of Textbook Production and Curriculum Research is working on developing the e-Balbharti app that is set to make an appearance in June 2016, before the new academic session kicks off. Also, the recommendation of keeping the books of Class II students in the school itself has been implemented successfully.
A lighter school bag means a happier child
Physiotherapist Mamta Sharma tells Speaking Tree education consultants, “Heavy school bags can strain the muscles of the neck, resulting in headache, migraine, etc. Besides, weighty schools bags could also lead to an inefficient breathing pattern because of the improper use of primary breathing muscle, that could also lead to indigestion problems later in life, such as acidity. When a child carries a heavy bag, the muscles of the lower back have to work harder against gravity, thereby causing the posture of the child to slouch.”
Ranjana Bhatia, Prof & Principal from Amity Institute of Education shares, “I vehemently support the idea of lighter school bags for students. It is pathetic to see children carry bags bigger than their own size and heavier than their own weight. I fail to understand the reason behind the ever-increasing size and weight of the school bags. Why must they carry so many books and notebooks on daily basis. In fact, all submissions and home work should be in line with ICT help as far as possible. This will reduce the size of their bags and lift burden off their shoulders.”
Mrinal Rao, who works as a teacher in the primary wing of a government school in Uttarakhand says, “As per my observation, students of rural areas, studying in government schools carry lighter bags, while those studying in private schools carry heavier bags. The reason behind this could be that the teachers and parents in urban areas expect their children to carry more books. In Uttarakhand, the SCERT has books that are integrated in nature, therefore fewer in number.”
“Despite the clear instructions, children continue to carry heavy bags to school. The teachers must ensure that students carry lighter bags. I also feel that a common notebook for all subjects will help make the bag lighter”, suggests Nitesh Davanda, an associate with the Action for the Rights of the Child.
Lighten your child’s school bag
Here are a few easy tips that you can follow to take the load off your child’s shoulders:
- Buy a comfortable school bag for your child. Avoid bags with a single strap.
- Stick to the time-table so that your child does not have to carry the extra burden.
- Use the compartments in the bag to distribute the bag weight equally.
- Replace the pencil box with a pouch.
- De-clutter the bag every week as the waste contributes to the weight of the bag.