Bag burden weighing down school students’ health
Lack of set schedule breaking children’s backs
Kohima, Nov. 15 (EMN): This is a common sight: school children carrying heavy school bags, with shoulders slouching under the weight of the books, and struggling to walk and climb up and down to school every single day.
Besides the numerous textbooks and notebooks, school students have to carry additional weight: water bottles and lunchboxes.
Because of the absence of set schedules in most of the schools, children are left with no option but to carry all their books to school every day. It is as if there was a fear of punishment for not brining all the books.
Following the direction from the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, the Nagaland Board of School Education issued a notification dated March 16, 2017, directing all the schools that the weight of school bags shall not be more than 10% of the weight of the child.
The order was issued following a recent study conducted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) highlighting the adverse effect of heavy schools bags that children must have to carry every day.
Ameno, a mother of two high school students, told the Eastern Mirror that her children often complain of strained neck, shoulder and even back pain.
‘I really feel for my children as they have to carry all their books to school every day,’ said the concern mother whose children must have to climb slopes to catch the school bus and downhill through again to reach their school.
Another concerned father of two children studying in a prestigious private school said that the school does not have any ‘daily routine.’ His two sons must have to carry heavy school bags which include 11 subjects (with minor subjects) with notebooks, water bottles and lunch boxes.
When asked why the parents don’t complain to the school authority, he said: ‘Though the parents are very much aware of the problem, we are scared to make any complaints for fear that our children might be expelled from the school.’ He said his children complain of strained neck, shoulder and back pain and looks tired by the time they reach home.
While the NBSE notification has directed schools to issue guidelines to all students to carry books as per the time-table, most of the private schools are found to not have routine. In the absence of any locker facilities, the children are compelled to carry all the books to school.
A teacher admitted on condition of anonymity that it was a ‘herculean task’ to make a time-table; it could be the reason why most schools lack a time-table.
A job for the schools
The notification of the board outlines a number of proactive measures to mitigate the burden of the students. For instance, schools have been directed to organise short-term awareness and training programmes for teachers and parents to highlight ‘safe ways’ of carrying heavy school bags.
Further, the schools were directed to issue directives to teachers to pre-inform students about the books that would be required to be studied on a particular day. Action shall be taken against any school not following the guideline, the board stated.
A medical practitioner referred to the ill effects of heavy school bags on school children daily. The emphasis on weight is even more so considering the topography of Naga lands: uneven, rough and often hilly. The children must have to traverse uneven grounds to their schools and back home every day. A paediatrician at district hospital of Wokha, Dr. Khriemenuo, has pointed out that pain in the neck, shoulder and back as short-term effects. The long term effects are abnormal curvature of the spine (kyphosis/scoliosis) causing persistent backache. Expressing grave concern that children are burdened by the weight of their school bags, she said that the ideal weight of the bags should not be more than 10% of the body weight.
Further, Dr. Khriemenuo suggested that schools can even adopt a single or complied text books with different subjects for each session. Another suggestion was that school authorities provide lockers for books and materials that classroom activities would require.
The medical practitioner sought the attention of parents to the importance of buying the right kind of bags too. Creating awareness in schools about the health hazards of carrying heavy school bag was another suggestion from her.
Though there has been advancement in school development, teaching and learning methods, it is a fact that students still cannot attend schools without books.
It is imperative for schools, policy makers and parents to take remedial measures to address the affect excessive weight on school children.