Studies showing that a school bag weighing more than five percent of the child’s weight impacts their posture, even causing disability, and guidelines being issued by the ministry of human resource development to limit the load notwithstanding, not much seems to have changed.
In 2012, a Class VI student in a Delhi school fell to his death after he overbalanced while leaning over a railing due to the weight of his school bag. Now, NGO Uday Foundation has launched an online ‘Save My Back’ campaign. Addressed to the MHRD, the signature campaign is urging the government to recommend children not carry school bags weighing more than 10 per cent of their body weight.
According to Rahul Verma, Uday Foundation founder, “It was in 1993 that the Prof. Yashpal Committee recommended reduction of school bag weight. Based on this, MHRD asked the National Council of Education Research and Training to rework school syllabus to reduce the load of books. The Central Board of Secondary Education, too, framed guidelines for its schools. But they are not being made mandatory and there is no regulatory mechanism.”
“Sometimes, school bags even weigh as much as 12kg. In the short term, this causes back, neck and shoulder pain, numbness of hands and fatigue. Due to undue stress on muscles and ligaments of the spine, it causes the spine to bend forward or sideways. In the long run, this may cause damage to spine and muscle spasms,” said Dr Ashish Gupta, senior consultant, paediatrics, Rockland Hospital.
Dr Ramneek Mahajan, head of orthopaedic surgery, Nova Speciality Surgery, said carrying heavy bags may cause chronic inflammation of the shoulder. “It leads to continuous wear and tear of the shoulder muscles and leads to severe neck and shoulder pain, ultimately resulting in chronic inflammation around the shoulder,” he said.
The petition urged MHRD to ensure that every school in India provides lockers of such size, as may be prescribed, to each student up to Class VIII so they may keep sports equipment, books and notebooks in school and that any violation attracts fines.