Reduce the burden of ‘little coolies’

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“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

 It is always said that education should not be a burden; but thanks to bulky school bags, it has become one – literally. In recent years, the weight of students’ school bag has become an increasing concern to people and parents, in particular, have given voice to this concern. In addition, school authorities and teachers, health professionals and, indeed students themselves have increasingly voiced their unease regarding the heavy loads, which must be carried to and from school on a daily basis. Heavy school bags can be a burden, which tire students unnecessarily. There are also many researches, which have revealed strong correlation between school bag weight and physical problems among all students that can result in serious consequences in the future.

Ideally, say experts, the weight of school bags (and water bottles) should not exceed 10 per cent of the body weight of the children. Anything heavier than that can lead to back and shoulder pain or even spinal deformities – and in some cases, the damage can be permanent. It is estimated that 60 per cent of the school going children are prone to spinal ailments of different degrees on account of the huge weight they carry in their school bags. Several policy decisions are made pertaining to school education, its curriculum, fee structure, teaching methods, hours of instruction, and the Right to Education. But sadly, none of the educational reforms so far have given any thought to the crucial issue that is so much associated with the physical well-being of the young students.

The 1993 report ‘Learning without burden’, submitted by the Yash Pal Committee appointed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development stated that young children should not be compelled to carry heavy bags to schools. In 2006, a Bill in this regard was introduced but till date no law exists. Acting on the suggestions of experts, the RTE Act, 2009 had recommended that a school bag should not weigh more than 10 per cent of the body weight of the kid. Following pressure from several quarters the CBSE in a circular in September 2016 directed all the schools affiliated to it to follow certain guidelines, like no school bags for kids of class I and II, lighter bags upto class VIII, safe and portable drinking water to kids, no additional textbooks, interaction between parents and school authorities regarding this etc. A few months back Human Resource Development minister Prakash Javadekar in a public meeting had assured that he would reduce the weight of school bags saying “carrying heavy bags is not necessary. It will definitely happen. We are preparing norms for CBSE schools that bundles of books and notebooks do not have to be needlessly carried….”. Nothing concrete is in the sight till date. What are the factors, which contribute to the increased burden and weight on school children? Is it the number of textbooks, workbooks and copies, the size and weight of individual textbooks etc. Solutions, suggestions, tips, and remedies are all available. It is just that people don’t want to do anything about them because all are so busy – be it planners or teachers. They just don’t have the time to observe or even care about the pain the children go through. It is high time that the educational planners give serious thought to the problem of the increasing bag burden of the students and find a viable solution to mitigate the suffering which has already made them ‘little coolies’.

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