Heavy school bags are 'deforming' children as growing numbers suffer irreversible back problems
By John Stevens for the Daily Mail
Published: 22:31 GMT, 12 March 2012 | Updated: 22:31 GMT, 12 March 2012
Growing numbers of children are developing irreversible back deformities because of the weight of the bags they carry to school, experts warned yesterday.
Half of all children suffer back pain by the age of 14 and doctors are reporting a rise in cases of spinal abnormalities in pupils, including disfiguring curvatures known as scoliosis.
Overloaded school bags that are up to double the size of those carried ten years ago are contributing to the surge, it is feared.
Heavy school bags can weigh double those from 10 years ago, leading to a wave of child back pain problems
Pupils routinely carry bags filled with heavy books, laptops, sports kit and packed lunches, which may weigh as much as two stone.
Health experts say children risk long-term and ultimately permanent damage if they regularly carry more than 15 per cent of their body weight over their shoulders.
The charity BackCare claims many youngsters are carrying as much as 20 per cent of their weight to and from school, and some up to 25 per cent.
Back pain specialists are calling for a review of the weights youngsters are being asked to carry on their backs each day.
Sean McDougall, of BackCare, said the problem is a ‘healthcare timebomb’ that is leading to years of misery in later life.
‘If children are getting back pain so young then there is the potential they will have it for the next 70 to 80 years, which leads to an enormous physical and emotional cost,’ he said.
‘Children’s skeletons are still growing so carrying heavy bags can cause lasting damage.
‘Many are carrying their bags on one shoulder or are increasingly carrying them on the crook of their elbow, so are placing a great strain on the spine.
‘A lot of the bags being used are bulky sports bags, which are twice the size of backpacks used a decade ago.
‘If children have bigger bags then they tend to fill them. Add on sports equipment, musical instruments and heavy wet weather clothes and children are totally overloaded.
‘We are seeing children carrying up to a quarter of their body weight around, which would never be allowed if you were an adult.’
He added: ‘Back problems are becoming an increasing issue among schoolchildren and schools no longer have adequate desk space for pupils to store heavy books. We need to have an urgent overview of this issue.’
Parents are being urged to keep an eye on children’s backpacks so that they do not cause problems for their health when they are older.
Mr McDougall said: ‘Parents should insist that their children pack their bags only with what they need for the next day and ensure that they are worn on both shoulders.’
Some school bags can weigh an incredible two stone
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Reduce burden of school bags
K S S Seshan, January 8, 2016 0:18 IST
As classrooms are generally secured during nights, books can be left there, to be picked up next day.
The school boy or girl these days is invariably associated with the ubiquitous large school bag that gets perched as a backpack whether it is town, city or village. While their shoes serve the children the whole year, the bags they carry, generally get worn out due to the weight of the books necessitating replacement mid way during the very academic session.
A class VII student, for example, carries in the bag a minimum load of 7 kg weight in text books, note books, compass box, paint box, and all other accessories. A class X student’s bag will weigh somewhere between 8-9 kg. Even a pre-primary kid has to carry a bag that is of considerable weight. What is intriguing is that for every subject taught in the class, there are several sets of long note books, each of 200-300 pages.
Constant carrying of the heavy loads on their tender backs not only saps the energies of the youngsters, but also puts them at high risks of physical disabilities. 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 boys and girls in the schools who are forced to carry huge loads of books in their bags.
Renowned writer R K Nara-yan is said to have famously spoken only once in the Rajya Sabha and his talk was on the woes of the young school going children carrying heavy loads in their bags. His soft but forceful plea was for the immediate intervention of the authorities to mitigate the sufferings of the children from the burden of the school bags. But unfortunately, nobody bothered to carry forward his plea at the political level and the burden of the school bag continues to grow with the passage of time.
There have been some suggestions made by few non-governmental volunteer organisations over the years to reduce the sufferings of children from the burden of the school bag. They wanted that lockers be provided in each classroom for the children to keep their books overnight. While corporate schools can afford to keep lockers, most other schools including the government run institutions may not have the wherewithal to provide such facilities.
Another suggestion mooted was, as classrooms are generally secured during nights, books can be left by children in the classrooms to be picked up the next day morning. Yet another advise, though turned down as very elitist and utopian, was to have two sets of books, one to be kept in the classroom and another at home.
Child psychologists argue that children who develop an emotional connect with books will get disturbed with the kind of divide, the two-sets concept will bring in. Bags with roller wheels like the trolleys as in western countries is another suggestion that has no takers given the condition of our roads and streets through which such bags are to be towed by children.
It is highly gratifying that recently the Bombay High court has ordered lighter school bags for all children in Maharashtra. But going by the reaction of the state government, it is not likely that the High Court order is being implemented with all seriousness immediately.
The kind of home work that is inflicted on children in each subject on each day is such that the students cannot part with their text book or note book even for a day. ‘If the text books are left in the classroom, children won’t read any thing at home’, the parents aver.
I recall, a young boy of seven, son of my host in Wales in UK while leaving to his county school in the neighbourhood at Swansea, north of Cardiff, had only a handful of books in his slender bag. One among them was Day’s Work Book in which he was to record anything worthwhile he thinks he has done for the day.
On my egging, he showed his previous day’s entry which read: I caught my dad while he was smoking after dinner. I asked him – ‘Dad are you going to ma-ke me an orphan. Dad promised that hereafter he will not smoke immediately after dinner’. This left me thinking that the quality of schooling has no correlation to the load of books the child carries in the bag.
It is high time that 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 of the school going children.
(The writer is a retired professor of History, University of Hyderabad)