Mumbai: Government sets up panel to make school bags shed flab

Spurred into action by a PIL filed before the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court, state sets up eight-member panel to weigh the issue of heavy school bags and asks it to come up with solutions within two months.

With a PIL on children being forced to carry heavy school bags finding its way to the Bombay high court, the state government has, in a pre-emptive strike of sorts, set up an eight-member committee yesterday to examine the weighty issue and give it a report within two months.

School bags

Despite doctors pointing out the adverse effects they can have on children, heavy school bags have long been a sticking point between parents, schools and activists. While all the parties involved acknowledge the need to lighten the children’s burden — especially in metropolises like Mumbai, where the kids have to climb several floors in their schools and residential buildings with the bags — a workable method of doing so is yet to emerge.

School bags weigh
One problem per kg: Orthopaedics say heavy school bags can lead to back pain, and even slipped discs 

Goaded into action
A PIL seeking to end the impasse through a court order was filed before the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court recently, and it has goaded the state government into action.

Since the HC bench is expected to raise questions on the efforts being made by the state government in addressing the issue of heavy bags, the eight-member committee was set up through a government order yesterday.

The committee will be headed by the Director (Primary education) and its other members include the deputy director of the state council for educational research and training, an expert in child psychology, one representative each of school managements, principals and parents, and a person working in the field of education. The Deputy Director (Primary education) will officiate as the member secretary of the committee.

The panel has been asked to suggest measures to reduce the weight of school bags, especially for primary school kids. The Director (Primary education) has also been asked to select members who can suggest ways to deal with difficulties while implementing the solutions that they may come up with.

Trailblazers
While the government is still working on, and tweaking, its school bag policy, some schools have already implemented rules to help unburden children. Certain schools have begun using worksheets instead of books, which students can easily carry in one file.

“This change came about when the government first discussed the need to reduce the weight of school bags. Students are made to carry only worksheets and not notebooks. They can then make separate files at home for different subjects and don’t have to carry heavy books to school everyday,” said Fr Francis Swamy, coordinator of Jesuit Schools of Mumbai.

Other schools have made space within the classroom for students to keep their books. “It makes no sense for students to carry all their textbooks to and from home every day and, hence, we insist that textbooks, especially the heavy ones, should be left in school. The kids can take them home to study before the exams,” said Rekha Shahani, principal of Kamla High School in Khar.

Shahani added that her school also follows a set timetable so that students have to carry only the required books. “Parents, however, end up forcing kids to carry all the books. We have given them strict instructions against doing so,” she said.

Arundhati Chavan from the PTA United Forum said schools need to show leniency towards students who forget to get some books. “Students are often punished for not bringing a particular book to school on a particular day. This instills fear in them and they end up carrying most or all of their books to school every day. Schools should stick to a timetable as doing so will solve a lot of problems,” she said.

Chavan added that the government should also look at issues like the school bus policy and the fee regulation bill, which are still pending.

— With inputs by Shreya Bhandary

Doctorspeak
Heavy school bags lead to back pain and, in certain cases, could also lead to slipped discs. While the effects vary, it isn’t advisable for children to carry heavy weights. If they do, they will face problems faced by weightlifters.
Dr Dominic D’silva, Orthopaedic

School bags that are heavy could lead to sprain in the back muscles, especially the paraspinal muscles. A lot of kids tend to hunch because of carrying heavy bags. For a 10-year-old child, the average weight of the bag shouldn’t be above 2-3 kg.
Dr Prakash Samant, Orthopaedic

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