Heavy School Bag: Health Implications And How To Overcome It?
Heavy school bags are posing serious health issues in the overall well-being of the students. It has both long-term and short-term adverse effects on their health. Sensing the seriousness of the condition, the Governments of many states have rolled out guidelines regarding setting the maximum weight of the school bag in accordance with the class in which students are enrolled. Before taking a look at these guidelines, let’s take a brief look at what should be the ideal weight of the bags and what are short and long health issues students are facing and may face due to carrying heavy bags on their backs.
Ideal Weight of the School Bags
As per health experts, the maximum weight of the school bag should not exceed one-tenth of the total body’s weight. This weight of the bag should include all items like water bottles, books, and notebooks, and lunch boxes. But as per the trend, it has been observed students are forced to carry all books and get punishment if they fail to comply with the rule. This has been pushing the weight limit of the school bag to 20% of the total body weight.
Immediate Adverse Effects of Carrying Heavy School Bag
- Development of poor posture with bending back
- Shoulder, back, and neck pain along with numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hands
Long-Term Adverse Effects
- The strain on the shoulder and on neck leads to headaches
- The problem of Scoliosis – which bends the spine sideways
- A damaged spine leads to problems like hunched back or spine bending forward
- Reduction in breathing capacity due to excessive pressure on the lungs from a sideways bent or forward posture
- A misaligned spine hampers the seamless communication between the body and the brain.
- Every bone has a center point from where the growth of the bone takes place. Carrying heavy school bags at an early age may damage these growth points and lead to abnormal bone growth in the children
In order to curb this growing menace, the Human Resource Development Ministry released certain guidelines which fixed the school bag weight of the children. The guidelines issued are binding on several states and Union Territories. Moreover, these guidelines aim at rationalizing the teaching calendars so that students get more and more time to indulge in extra-curricular activities like sports and other skills.
Important Guidelines Pertaining to School Bag Weight
- The weight of the school bag for classes I & II needs not to exceed 1.5 KGS and for classes III to V, it should not exceed more than 2-3 KGS. The upper limit of the school bag is fixed at 4 KG for classes VI-VII and for 4.5 KGS for classes VIII and IX.
- The schools need to provide safe drinking water facilities which eliminate the need to carry water bottles for children from their respective houses.
- No homework for primary grade children i.e. classes I –V. All homework needs to complete under the supervision of teachers during school hours. Moreover, no subjects other than mathematics and language prescribed for the classes.
- Similarly, for classes III to V, school teachers need to teach only Environmental Science (EVS), languages and mathematics as prescribed by NCERT.
Is this one threat that only needs to handle by the Government of India? The answer is definitely NO. A collective effort from school authorities, students, and parents is required to fight this menace. One of the doctors has shared some tips that will help in reducing school bag weights.
Useful Suggestions For Parents for Reducing School Bag Weight
- Parents should pay special attention when buying a school bag for their children. The bag should be spacious and comfortable to carry. It should be sturdy as well as not wider than a student’s chest.
- Compared to standard bags, the backpack is more comfortable. It has several pockets that allow the structuring of the bag in an efficient manner like placing stationery items in the pocket meant for them. Packing a bag structurally helps in the equal distribution of the weight on the back and the shoulders. For instance, heavy items should be placed at the base of the pack as this helps in better distribution of the weight. Moreover, look for those bags made from lightweight materials like canvas and nylon.
- It is a common habit of children of using only one strap for carrying the bag. This puts an additional burden on one shoulder. So, use both straps for carrying the bags on both shoulders.
- Bags with wide and padded shoulder straps and waist belts play a significant role in reducing pressure on the shoulder and the neck area. Moreover, as the child grows, it is easy to adjust with straps. With a waist belt, bags remain closer to the child’s back and will not slouch.
- Instruct children to tighten the straps of the bag to bring it closer to their bodies.
- A strict “no-no” to hard-binding of the books. Soft binding also keeps books in a good position and even reduces unnecessary weight.
- Consider buying small backpacks for younger children. If possible, invest money in trolley bags are they are highly convenient to carry.
- Do not forget to check your child’s posture once he puts on the bag. If the child complains about heaviness or is leaning forward, take out the time to check whether or not it has packed correctly.
- Lastly, parents should ensure that their children are carrying only necessary books and equipment in their school bags.
Steps Need to Take by School Authorities:
- Schools should lay down the guidelines regarding light school backpacks. Inform parents to buy only broad padded straps.
- Instruct children to take school bags in their hands while climbing the stairs.
- Inform students in advance regarding notebooks and books required for a particular day. This gives them clear direction regarding which books to bring to school.
- Even schools also ensure that students are carrying books as per the timetable of that particular day.
- A locker facility is available in every school where students are allowed to keep their books needed in the classroom.
- Regular health check-ups in schools to check whether students feel should and neck pain due to heavy bags, etc.
- If possible, allow students to use one big notebook for all subjects instead of carrying separate notebooks for various subjects.
- Make one day in a week where students of classes I to V get the privilege to come to school without bags.
Some other tips like students should keep their bags down while waiting for the school bus, request and surprise checks by school authorities to ensure that the students are carrying only required books and reference materials, etc., can also play a crucial role in solving the problem.
Carrying heavy school bags on their shoulders will affect the health of school children in an adverse manner. These problems are basically related to the spine, shoulder, neck and back. This is high time to take relevant measures to solve the issue in the right way. Not only the HRD ministry, but even parents and school authorities also have to come together to sketch a suitable solution. Parents should play a crucial role in helping students to choose the right fabric and size of bag whereas school authorities can help by encouraging students to bring books and notebooks as per the timetable. With a combination of the right approach and ideas, cooperation between schools and parents can go for miles in reducing school bag burdens.
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