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School children burdened carrying heavy school bags

Have you seen school children carrying heavy bags while going and coming from school and didn’t you pity them? This is perhaps the most disheartening sight one can witness on a weekday morning seeing little kids bent forward carrying heavy school bags.

Heavy bags are primarily a serious threat to the health and well-being of the students. They give a severe adverse physical effect on the growing children that can cause damage to their vertebral column and knees. It also causes anxiety in them. Moreover, in the schools which are functioning in multi-storeyed buildings, the children have to climb the steps with such heavy school bags that further aggravate the problem and health consequences.

School bags containing textbooks, boxes containing lunch or pencil boxes or geometry sets, water bottles and what not exert a 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 viz Maharashtra and Telangana have a policy in place that stipulates that the weight of a school bag should not exceed ten per cent of the body weight of the student.

Let’s take the example of the Telangana state government.

It has directed that the load of a school bag should weigh between 6 to 12 kgs at the primary level and between 12 to 17 kgs at the high school level.

For this endeavour, the said government conducted a survey on the load of school bags in some districts. Based on the survey, an exercise was taken up to arrive at the proper load of the school bags and a policy on home work and assignments. A guideline has also been issued by the government that directs the managements under the government, local bodies, aided and un-aided private schools in the state to implement these guidelines to reduce the load of the school bags for classes I to X.

General guidelines to reduce the load of school bags:

Following the state curriculum, all the schools have to follow the textbooks prescribed by the state Academic Authority i.e., SCERT, Government of Telangana. The number of textbooks in different classes should not exceed the number prescribed by the SCERT for the corresponding class.

Schools should focus on making the children understand concepts rather than just memorising the concepts. Freedom should be given to the children to read, comprehend and express for themselves.

Schools should avoid repeated copying from the text books / guide books during and after the school hours.

Reading library books and participation in games, sports, art & culture and other creative, co-curricular activities for holistic development of the children must be encouraged.

Feedback on the assessment and the performance of the children is a must to improve the performance of the students and also the teachers. The use of guides and guide type study material should be avoided and children should be made to think, imagine and construct their own answers.

All these would help one in carrying lesser number of books in the bags.

Guidelines for primary schools

Three textbooks have been prescribed for classes I & II i.e. mother tongue, English, mathematics while  four text books have been prescribed  for classes III to V i.e.mother tongue, English, mathematics and Environmental Studies by the State Academic Authority.

There should be one note book of 100 pages for each subject for undertaking Formative Assessment items such as textbook exercises, projects, slip tests etc.

This too the children need not bring everyday to the school. Two subjects per week i.e. 3 days per subject shall be prescribed along with two 100 pages double ruled note books for improving the handwriting. And the children should bring books of these subject only. Rest of the books can be kept at home.

When we asked Mr Kulkarni whether the weight of the school bag was hampering the health of his child Ajay, he said, “ Yes, very much. You should see him in the afternoon when he returns from school; he remains half bent for some time before he straightens up. Most of the parents of his school friends including me did take up this issue with the principal a long time back. In his reply he said that the school is in the process of formulating a curriculum in this effect. We should be able to formulate a law by the end of this term. Hopefully, by the start of the new term in June, children will start getting bags much lesser in weight.”

(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)

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