An expert committee constituted by Karnataka found that school students carry bags weighing at least 10 kg each. In some cases, the weight goes up to 15 kg, way beyond the safe limit. Studies say children should not carry bags more than 10 per cent of their body weight. Anything more than 15 per cent can be damaging. But findings of the committee prove they are made to lug bags that weigh between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of their body weight! Still wonder why children as young as five complain of back pain and neck sprain? The committee was set up to study the problem and look at ways to bring down the weight of school bags. Now, it’s up to the State government to implement the suggestions once the committee submits its report. Maharashtra has recently passed a resolution capping the weight of the school bag at 10 per cent of body weight and issued guidelines for schools and parents. Legislation is just one way of approaching the problem. What we need is awareness among schools and parents, and a holistic approach.
On its part, the government must come out with guidelines. But the schools have a bigger say in the matter and must ensure that students are not turned into load carriers. To begin with, they can provide storage facilities so that children don’t have to carry every textbook, notebook and sports accessory back and forth every day. It will also help if they provide clean drinking water, besides food if possible. This will eliminate the necessity of carrying water bottles and lunch boxes, which add up to about 1.5 kg or more per child.
The timetable must also be reviewed to minimise the number of subjects taken up each day, which will in turn reduce the number of books required, and promote e-learning. Study material can be provided online and students can be encouraged to complete homework online. There must be random checks to see if bags conform to the weight norms. Parents must supervise packing of school bags to ensure that only the required items go into them. Lightweight bags and other accessories too go a long way in reducing a child’s burden.