Perhaps the most disheartening sight one can witness on a weekday morning, is that of little kids bent forward, carrying the crushing weight of their school bags. Books were never supposed to be a burden which students and parents would grow to resent. Yet in India, parents have to helplessly watch their kids shoulder giant backpacks, bursting at their seams, full of school paraphernalia.

Textbooks, boxes containing lunch or pencils or geometry sets, water bottles and whatnot are exerting huge stress on our kids’ delicate vertebral columns. There is no denying that this is hazardous to their health. As of yet, only two states in India, Maharashtra and Telangana have a policy in place which stipulates that the weight of a school bag should not exceed ten percent of the body weight of the student.

According to The Hindu, Justice N. Kirubakaran of Madras High Court had directed the Centre on May 29th this year, to formulate a policy on the permitted weight of backpacks that could be carried by school children. While disposing of a petition on this matter, filed by an advocate, the judge had observed that “neither are children weightlifters nor school bags load containers.”

In response, the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) informed the Madras High Court on Monday, that an Expert Group has been constituted to formulate a draft policy on reducing the weight of school bags in proportion to the age and average weight of children.

How does the sight of so much weight hanging from a child’s developing shoulder blades not worry school authorities? Not only is our system taxing our kids’ minds, it is also damaging their backs. The system has long let our children drag around those heavy backpacks, neglecting its impact on their health. It is no wonder that children come back from school absolutely exhausted. Add to that the segregation of notebooks on basis of classwork, homework and even rough work. I have seen children in secondary school carry as many as three notebooks for each subject every day to school.

SOME TAKEAWAYS

  • In India, parents have to helplessly watch their kids shoulder giant backpacks, bursting at their seams, full of school paraphernalia.
  • Our education system has long let our children drag around heavy backpacks, neglecting its impact on their health.
  • With every passing day, month and year, our education system is putting the well being of more and more kids at risk.

Citing data from Archives of Disease in Childhood, BBC in 2012 reported that “excessively loaded” backpacks were linked to higher levels of back pain among school children.

School pupils, barely in their teens, have to deal with back pain issues, a problem we have long associated with adult life. Eventually these teenagers will walk into adult life with chronic issues already tailing them. How will they cope with long studying hours of professional colleges or exhausting first few years of their careers?

The health crisis thus arising will have long-term repercussions on young girls, who will eventually embrace motherhood.

Chronic back pain is part and parcel of a new mother’s life. She has to go through nine months of pregnancy and zillion sleepless nights and feeding sessions afterwards.

For the sake of our school going children’s healthy childhood and adult life, we need to instantly trim the weight of their school bags. With every passing day, month and year, our education system is putting the well being of more and more kids at risk.

We sincerely hope that this time around, there will be no more stalling. That the Ministry of HRD will issue some guidelines very soon, which will ensure that children will not have to carry more than ten percent of their body weight on their backs.

Picture Credit: Daily Times

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own.

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