Tired eyes, burdened shoulders: Kids carrying 10kg school bags despite govt cap
Fifth-grader Tushar Mehta walks gingerly with his overwhelmingly heavy bag, from his home to his school in Jhandewalan. It's a two-km daily drag for the little kid.
"We're forced to carry all textbooks and notebooks. If we miss anything, we get wooden scale slaps or have to stand outside the classroom for the whole period," he said, with sadness in his eyes and sharp pain in his tiny shoulders.
This is the story of most schoolchildren in Delhi-NCR. While the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) asked all states and Union Territories (UTs) on Monday to regulate the weight of school bags, a Mail Today reality check with a weighing machine showed this is going to be a daunting task as children remain crushed by the heavy bags they carry. Most bags weighed double the limit prescribed by the government. Many small kids were seen carrying even 10-kg bags. Those in classes III and IV were the worst suffers.
As per the government circular, the weight of schoolbags for students of classes I and II should not exceed 1.5 kg, while those of students of class III to V should weigh between 2 kg to 3 kg. Schoolbags of students of classes VI and VII should not be more than 4 kg, while the weight of schoolbags of classes VIII and IX students should not be above 4.5 kg. The schoolbag of a class X student should not weigh above 5 kg.
But the reality is painful, and it will take some doing before the burden can actually be reduced. Shruti Desai, a class III student of a private school in Mayur Vihar, carries a 5 kg bag. Her mother, Kavita Desai, said nothing much can be done. "Kids carry only what they are asked to. They have five subjects. Each subject has three books. There are computer and art books. Plus, there are notebooks. Teachers can ask for anything," she said.
She is worried about her child's health. "She is so fragile and often complains about her back. The problem can be fixed only by schools and teachers, we can only request them," she said.
The idea behind the government circular is to ensure good health and physical growth of growing children who are often seen complaining about back and shoulder pain.
JS Bhasin from the pediatric department at BLK Super Speciality Hospital said 68 per cent of the children in the age group of 7-13 face risks of a backache and hunchback because of heavy schoolbags. "These problems may lead to early spondylitis and severe neck and back pain. It may also cause serious spinal damage and irreversible back problems. It also affects the mental growth of children as they feel tired all the time," he said.
He said heavy textbooks should be replaced with notepads. "It's a one-time investment. Schools can provide files of various subjects," he said.
Avadesh Kumar Ojha, principal of Government Sarvodaya Coed Vidyalaya, Rohini Sector-8, said heavy bags are a result of traditional teaching patterns. "Schools nowadays are focusing more on finishing the syllabus rather than enhancing students' learning abilities."
"In my school, students don't carry water bottles weighing 1 kg as I have installed water purifiers. Similarly, if the school starts providing textbooks in classrooms, children will not have to carry such heavy bags," the Ojha said.