NEW DELHI: The issue of health implications of students carrying heavy school bags has reached the doors of the Supreme Court of India, days after Madras High Court directed the Centre to ask states to reduce the satchels of school children and ban homework in class I and II.
A bird rescuer from Kerala, Mukesh Jain, has filed a PIL in the apex court to ask the Union government to take urgent steps for reducing the weight of school bags students carry to Central Board of Seco0ndary Education.
The PIL, which is yet to come up for hearing, has suggested that NCERT textbooks, followed in CBSE schools should be divided in two or three volumes each, a practice that many state educational boards have already suggested.
Jain who runs a helpline to save injured birds, has also been taking up the cause of overburdened students since 2000 when he had approached the National Human Rights Commission for guidelines on the subject.
On his plea, KHRC had directed the state government to bifurcate textbooks of 200 pages and above—which several other states had also followed.
“It’s painful to see that while state boards have come to understand the plight of the children but the CBSE is yet to realize this,” said Jain. “I have been knocking the doors of many authorities at the Central level but to little avail and then I thought of going to the Supreme Court.”
Jain, in his plea to the Court has suggested that guidelines should be in place to have NCERT text books in multiple volumes, notebooks with not more than 100 pages and children should be made to carry only small school bags.
Doctors confirmed that students carrying bags of over 1/10th of their body weight are susceptible to many short-term and long-term health issues.
“I have seen school children with issues like cold shoulder syndrome, compensatory deposit on spine and poor postures and on detailed probing it emerged that they had been carrying bags of over 20 per cent of their body weight,” said R C Meena, an orthopaedician at SMS Medical College in Jaipur.
“This issue can be alarming as such children tend to have bad postures as they grow and can have permanent bent in their spinal cords in extreme cases,” he added.
Officials in the Union Human Resources Ministry clarified that while there is no mandatory rule for reducing weight of school bags in CBSE schools, the board, in guidelines issued in 2016, had asked its affiliated schools to take certain steps.
“The guidelines included asking teachers not to penalise students in any way for not bringing textbooks or workbooks and telling schools not to give homework in lower classes,” an official said.
“Also as the government has initiated the process of reducing syllabus by giving more emphasis on extra -curricular activities—the issue will get resolved from the next academic session,” he stressed.
What can be the harms of children carrying more than 1/10th of their body weight for too long
· Frozen Shoulder syndrome- Scarring or inflammation of muscles in the shoulder
· Compensatory deposit on spine—calcium deposits in the ligaments around the invertebral discs
· Spinal deformity
· Bad posture
· Chronic muscle pain in shoulder and arm