Indian schools are known to follow a rigorous set of rules, one of which is to carry various textbooks to school every day. As a result, Indian students are expected to carry heavy backpacks to schools, and a failure to abide by this usually leads to punitive actions by teachers and school authorities. Moreover, as most school buildings function in double or multiple storey buildings, students are expected to climb two to three flights of stairs with these heavy bags, which further aggravates their burden.
Overtime, various researches have been published that illustrate the fact that carrying such heavy school bags has a detrimental and damaging effect on students’ health. Carrying heavy school bags affects the child’s spine and back so badly that it might also have long term ill-effects. Experts point out that a heavy backpack can pull on the neck muscles contributing to headache, shoulder pain, lower back pain and neck and arm pain. Apart from this, the posture of the body also gets affected which in the long term develops imbalances in the body and has an effect on the nervous system.
To counter this apathy of teachers and school administrations, Delhi’s Directorate of Education (DoE) has instructed all government schools in the National Capital Region to put a cap on the weight of school bags of students. Calling for strict implementation of the same, the guidelines issued state that the weight of the school bag for classes 1-2 should not be more than 1.5 kg. Further, schools have to ensure that the weight of school bags for classes 3-5 does not exceed 2-3 kg, for classes 6-7, it is 4 kg, for classes 8-9, it is 4.5 kg while for class 10, the weight limit has been fixed at 5 kg.
Citing as the reason for this action, the Directorate observed that heavy bags pose a serious threat to the health and well-being of students and can severely affect their vertebral column and knees. It further said that carrying heavy bags might also be a factor that induces anxiety in students.
The Ministry of Human Resource and Development had formulated these guidelines back in 2016, and the current circular which was issued, comes as a reiteration of the same. The HRD Ministry framed these guidelines after it realised that the load of school bags is increased by bringing textbooks, guides, homework and classwork notebooks, rough work notebooks, lunch box and water bottles to school. It has therefore directed schools that the number of books in each class should not exceed more than that prescribed by NCERT, CBSE and the SCERT. Teachers have been asked to frame well- designed time-tables so that students are not required to carry many books in a day. Furthermore, students should not be prescribed supplementary and additional books which are often costly and add to the weight of the school bags.
Not only school authorities, but parents should also act responsibly and encourage their child to repack their bags daily and only carry textbooks according to their schedule, thus avoiding unnecessary items that might increase the weight of school bags. Additionally, the parents should also be made aware and counselled about the ill-effects of students carrying heavy bags to schools.
Apart from all these measures, schools have also been asked to provide safe drinking water to avoid carrying of drinking water bottles by students from their homes.
In a country like ours which has huge intellectual potential and energy, it is a real shame that much of the students’ energy gets wasted in carrying tonnes of pages on their shoulders rather than channelling this productive energy in creative pursuits, sports or hobbies. Such a responsible intervention from the government, therefore, comes at the right time and if implemented properly, can easily solve this problem and unburden the students from the mindless task of carrying heavy bags to schools each day.