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Friday, May 28, 2010



Many people will still remember the speech that R.K. Narayan the novelist had made in parliament, he said his heart bled whenever he saw young boys and girls going to school laden with books which they could hardly carry. This burden did not improve their minds; it only made them hunch backs.

Heavy back packs are one of the most distressing and unpleasant aspects of school life for many children.

The heavy weights of books make school going drudgery and irksome. This goes contrary to the current trend, which insists that the learning process should be fun. Children who do not have to carry heavy loads, such as the resident borders, are more relaxed and at ease than those who have to carry heavy backpacks to school. Similarly one of the appealing aspects of college life for kids is that they do not have to shoulder the burden of heavy books.

Heavy bags cause stress on the spine, back and shoulders, resulting in muscular pain, fatigue and strain. The excessive weight in bags may cause a child to develop poor posture or slouch excessively.

Look for the following warning symptoms that a school bag is too heavy:

- Tingling and numbness in arm.
- Pain while wearing the backpack.
- Struggling when putting on or taking off the backpack.
- Change in posture when wearing the backpack.

Problems caused by heavy school bags :

1. Lifting heavy burden for a long time or distance is not good for children. Half of the school children develop pain in the back or shoulder.

2. Carrying a heavy bag on the back causes forward leaning and bad posture, which can lead to improper weight bearing on the spine, and pains and aches in the shoulder and back.

3. Carrying a backpack weighing > 15% of body weight makes a child or adolescent unable to maintain proper standing posture. Children could get into bad habits like poor posture and slouching.

4. Forward bending at the back (also called kyphotic posture) makes the work of breathing harder. Children carrying heavy bags have been found to have poor lung function.

5. Children who use one-strap bags (which put weight on one shoulder only) have a particular problem. These bags cause side ways deviation of the spine (scoliosis) because of the asymetric weight distribution and this can cause long lasting backaches and damage. Slinging the bag over one shoulder causes spine damage.

How to buy the right Backpack

(a) Don't buy big backpack it should be appropriate to your child's size.

(b) Choose a backpack with moulded frame and adjustable hip strap, so that the weight of the filled backpack will rest on your child's pelvis instead of their shoulder and spine.

(c) The shoulder straps should be adjustable, and the rear of the backpack padded for comfort.

(d) To help with packing, the backpack should have a few separate compartments.

(e) Canvas bags are lighter than leather varieties.
(f) Consider buying a backpack with built in wheels.
Packing the backpack correctly

- The backpack should weigh less than 10% of your child's body weight. For e.g. a child of 20 kg should carry less than 4 kg in their backpack. Ideally the child in this example should carry around 2-3 kg of books.

- Pack the heaviest items so they are closest to the child's back. If the heaviest items are packed further away, this throws out the child's center of gravity and causes unnecessary back strain.

- Make sure that items can't move around during transit as this could upset your child's centre of gravity. Use the backpacks with compartments.

Data shows that more than 75% of school children carry more than the recommended safe weight in the school bag.

Some solutions for this back breaking burden

(a) Loose sheets for homework.

(b) Individual lockers for students in school.

(c) Class work notebooks kept in school.

(d) Consecutive periods for one subject.

(e) To follow NCERT homework guidelines.

- Standard I & II - No Homework
- Standard III to IV - 2 hrs. a week
- Standard VI to VIII - 5 to 6 hrs. a week
- Standard IX to XII - 10 to 12 hrs. a week

(f) The Central Board of Secondary Education has directed the affiliated schools that they have to maintain the school bags of the students upto Class-II. School bags of students up to Class-II should be kept in school itself. Student of this age group should come with a lunch box and the pencil box only.

(g) CBSE also recommends a class library system so that students get used to habit of reading books in school.

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