Heavy bags burden child's body, mind

The Central Board of Secondary Education’s recommendations for reducing the physical burden of heavy school bags on children merit attention and implementation. It has called on school authorities to provide lockers for children to keep their reference books, sports equipment, uniforms, etc in school so that they need not lug these to and from home daily. While younger children should be allowed to keep all their books in school, the older ones should be discouraged from carrying reference books to school. The CBSE also suggests curriculums that are more activity-based and information and communications technology (ICT)-supported, daily co-curricular activities and time-tables that provide for block scheduling of subject classes. It calls on teachers to spread out homework over the week. It underscores the need for counseling parents and teachers on the impact of heavy bags on a child’s development. A school bag, including books as well as other things like a water bottle, lunchbox, etc should be less than 10% of the child’s body weight. Carrying heavy bags results not only in back, shoulder and neck pain but it also causes long-term musculoskeletal disorders. Excess weight puts the bones, muscles and ligaments under pressure and affects the alignment of the spinal column. In other words, a heavy bag puts the child’s physical development at risk and hampers her overall growth. The damage is almost always irreversible.

The CBSE’s recommendations are simple to implement and involve no great financial investment on the part of school authorities. However, it requires teachers to be more organised in their work. Often, students are expected to bring all the books to class because the teacher is unsure of what s/he is going to teach that day. Poor preparedness prompts a teacher to ask students to bring all the books daily. Schools also expect students to have different books not just for different subjects but for work in class, at home, rough work and tests in each subject. Sharing text books and making reference books available in school libraries must be made compulsory. Not only will this reduce the number of books children carry to school but this will also inculcate in them the quality of sharing with each other. It will cut the expenditure of parents on books every year as well.

Other school boards must be encouraged to adopt the CBSE’s suggestions. Importantly, the education boards must put in place a system of monitoring. Going to school should be a positive experience for children. We are denying them that when we impose physical and mental burdens on them.

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