No respite for schoolchildren from heavy bags

Debate about the issue gained momentum after a parent filed a petition

With just a week left for the new academic year and school term to begin, the excitement of going back to school is palpable among youngsters.

Yet, many children and their parents are not happy as thier children have to lug heavy schoolbags to and from school everyday.

School bags weighing more than 10 per cent of a child’s body weight could cause permanent damage to the spine and is akin to child labour, mentions the Children’s School Bag Act, 2006. Unfortunately, most of the children in Mysore are made to carry bags weighing more than 8 kg. Last year, the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) of Mysore took cognisance of the issue, based on a petition of a parent and directed the Deputy Director of Public Instruction (DDPI) to take action to reduce the weight of schoolbags. Later, there were discussions and interactions with experts, school heads, academicians, parents and children. However, the children continue to suffer.DDPI T R Basappa, speaking to Deccan Herald, said, though the issue was debated heavily in Mysore, nothing has come of it. 

Circular

“Soon, I will send a circular to all schools directing them to reduce the burden of schoolbags, by asking the students to carry only books required for the particular day,” he stated.

A year ago, Pratham Mysore, a non-government organisation, held several surveys in government and private schools in and around Mysore. The survey revealed that a class five student carries a bag weighing 7-10 kg. The weight increases as children go to higher classes. Besides, textbooks and notebooks, the bags contain lunch boxes, water bottles, geometry boxes and sports materials. Children in urban areas carry books for private tuitions also. Pratham states that these heavy bags reduce productivity of students and has urged the education department to implement its recommendations.

Pratham concludes: “Even a working child is free to decide whether to work or not, but a school-going child is compelled to carry heavy bags. It leads to strain, fatigue and physical discomfort among children and this affects their attentiveness and ability to learn”.

N R Vijay, Deputy Director for Child and Woman Development, too agreed that the issue remains as it is, as all the debate has led to nowhere. He said, his department will take steps to create awareness about the problem. “We will educate parents and teachers during meetings held in schools and stress on the need to reduce the weight of schoolbags,” he added.

It can be recalled that the JJB’s directives to educational institutions to ensure that children carry lighter schoolbags has not evoked any response.

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