City SundaySpot Light

Burden of books


Whenever parents look at their son or daughter, who is yet to complete his/her 3rd birthday,   carrying her school bag which must be weighing half her weight, they feel sad. As a writer, I also share the same kind of feeling. It is frustrating to see the least. Why is this education system killing this beautiful generation under the burden of the bags?

With reports emerging that 60 per cent of schoolchildren below 10 years age suffer from orthopedic ailments due to heavy (overweight) school bags, concerned activists are all set to raise awareness about the issue again.
Last week a report was submitted to the Bombay High Court by a Maharashtra government-appointed committee. Various NGOs have been repeatedly appealing to HRD Ministry to frame a policy for reducing the weight of school bags.

The shocking revelation has once again brought to fore the need to reduce the burden of school bags. A well known child rights NGO  — which in collaboration with a private hospital two years ago began an online campaign ‘Save My Back’ that received support from 3,000 netizens within a week — has now decided to take the fight to reach Delhi.
The NGO has been repeatedly appealing to HRD Ministry to frame a policy for reducing the weight of the bags which is to be made applicable to all schools in the country.

A large number of school kids carrying heavy bags are falling victims to temporary as well as permanent medical conditions, such as back aches, spondylitis, neck pain, deformed skeletons and lung problems, experts say.

According to a recent report published in the Indian Journal of Pediatrics, about 30 per cent of schoolchildren complain of back pain.

If a child’s school bag weighs more than 15 per cent of the body weight, the journal notes, it changes the angle of shoulder, neck, trunk and lower limb, and affects overall posture.

Another study conducted by the Indian Medical Association revealed that heavy bags can result in permanent disability as growth of the skeletal system among children occurs during puberty.

It also says that the children carrying bags weighing more than 10 per cent of their body weight have been found to have poorer lung function.

In a shocking incident in February 2013, a Class 6 student of a school in East Delhi’s Mayur Vihar area fell to his death after losing balance while leaning over a railing due to the weight of his near-13 kg bag.

Delhi High Court had in January 2012 asked schools to take steps to ensure that the bags do not exceed 10 per cent of a child’s body weight. The court had also said kids shall not be burdened with homework till Class 1.

The Ashok Ganguly Committee constituted by the court suggested that there should be no books in the bag in pre-school classes, and that children should only carry a lunch box and play materials.

The concept of carrying bags is only seen in India. Most countries provide children with lockers in schools so that they need not carry books to school every day. Teachers should follow a strict time table. Students need to be informed well in advance about the books that need to be carried the next day.

Indian traditional education system – black board with guru under a tree in open area (Gurukul system).

Use of black board (slates) with chalk is getting over even in rural India.

In countries like the US, Australia and Germany, students are provided with e-books and I-pads.
Home works should be sent and received online by schools whenever it is possible.
A panel headed by the well-known educator and scientist had in 1993 asked NCERT to rework school syllabus to reduce the load of books.
The CBSE in 2004 framed guidelines to reduce the load but it has remained only on paper.
The panel said school bags for classes 1 and 2 should not weigh more than 2 kg. For classes 3 and 4, the bag’s weight should be less than 3 kg, and those studying in classes 5 to 8 shouldn’t carry bags that are more than 4 kg. The upper limit for senior classes from 9 to 12 has been set at 6 kg.

But so far, none of the guidelines has been implemented by schools. CBSE guidelines remain on paper while the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE) has made it clear in its affiliation by-laws that no school will allow school bags and homework for students up to Class II, children can still be seen lining up at bus stops with bags half their size.

According to these CBSE rules, affiliated schools will not prescribe textbooks other than those prescribed by the NCERT. But the implementation of these guidelines remains poor with just a handful of schools taking them seriously.
The issue of heavy school bags, however, is not something new. The Yashpal Committee, in its report in 1993, had come out with suggestions to lessen the load of school bags.
It spoke about the need for concise books that use graphics instead of verbose texts to explain concepts, the need to split books in to two halves for two terms and to eliminate the need of textbooks in primary classes altogether. In 2014, the department of education (DOE), Delhi government, issued guidelines for principals and parents.
The recommendations, which range from teaching children “correct lifting and carrying techniques” to buying “child-friendly bags”, have been drafted by a committee formed by the DOE especially for this purpose.
“Besides devising proper timetables for students to “ensure equitable distribution of weight of school bags”, the DOE has asked schools to “discourage children from bringing reference books” and to “plan a staggered homework schedule”.
Lets make education a fun filled activity  for our children rather than a burden. Let’s bring back the love for books and education. Let’s bring back their lost childhood with smiling faces!!!

Vivek LaL , Krishna Bannerji , Dr. Sachin Sinha


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