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No School bag day in Manipur

It is great to learn that on 3rd September2019 Government of Manipur Secretariat: Education(S) Department issued an office Memorandum No-29/22/2019-SE(S) Misc.; that every working Saturday should be “NO SCHOOL BAG DAY” for all students from class I to VIII in all schools of Manipur.It’s great initiative but there are still miles to go to completely remove the heavy burden carried by our children.Why? Doctors say, carrying heavy school bags cause neck and back pain, shoulder strain and fatigue amongst other. Because when they carry a heavy bag what they do is they tend to bend down too much and they look little short, otherwise it will have not much of effect. When a backpack is too heavy, the body will have to compensate by tilting forward to counter the effect of gravity. This will alter the alignment of the child’s posture and increase the strain on the spine. It is said that school children’s backpack should not exceed more than 10% of their body weight. Research has proven that carrying heavy school bags will have adverse impact on students’ health as they enter into adulthood. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends students to carry only 10% of their body weight. For instance, if a child weighs 20kg, then the child should carry only around 2kg of weight. Children use backpacks every day to get their books back and forth from the school. Many students carry larger school bags with excessive weight. Some parents help carry the school bags, most carry on their own. Much has changed in the school for the better of our students. Ways of teaching and learning have changed. School environments have also transformed to absorb the changes in teaching and the learning. Despite these changes, one thing has remained unchanged that is the excessive weights of school bags that our students lug to their schools. It is common sigh to see students carrying school bags that are unnecessarily heavy that often larger than their backs. Scientific studies offer a range of adverse implications on students, as they grow into adulthood from carrying heavy school bags. It is time that parents andpolicy makers also understand both the short-and long term impacts as reported in these studies, because our students carry their bags from home to school and back, six days a week, nine months a year, for thirteen years of their developmental period.
    Some of the commonly discussed effects are: fatigue; muscle strain, back pain, distortion of spine’s natural curves, rounding of the shoulders, poor body posture and short attention spans. Heavy school bags are also known causes of cervical and lumber pains. Convincing claims also points out that reduction and shortening of the lumber spines in proportion to the weight of the school bag will result in overloading and degenerative changes in spine. Such changes are known causes of back pain in later year.It has also been reported that growth points in the bones from which bones grow will be damaged by carrying excessively heavy school bags resulting in abnormal or stunted growth. The above impacts are alarming in various ways. Firstly, the impact will have a huge burden on our health system and some studies terms these impacts as healthcare time bombs. Secondly, the toll of excessive weight of school bags on our school children will result in underdeveloped human capital, because some studies have made persuasive claims of casualty between healthy bodies and high student achievement. While our country is unusually quiet on the silent struggle of our students to carry heavy school bags,other countries have not only recognized the socio-economic problems associated with their students carrying heavy school bags but also implemented diverse solution to the problem. In Australia some state governments provide their public with advisory information about the risks of heavy school bags, ways of reducing the risks, alternative to carrying school bags and ways of reducing the number of books, students carry. In India, some courts have issued orders to state governments to formulate policies for adverting students from carrying heavy school bags. In USA, health specialists have recommended the critical ratio of the weight of school bag to the students’ body weight. In the United Kingdom, health specialists have called for a review of the weights students carry. In some countries the media awakened the public on the issue. All these concerns show that the impact of carrying heavy school bags by our students need quick intervention as the concerns are no less relevant to our country and the state of Manipur.
    When the body weights and weights of school bags of one hundred students from middle secondary school in the country were randomly measured, the average weight of the school bags that the students carry to their school was 17% of their average body weights of 40.20%. This falls outside of the recommended range of 10-15% of the body weight. As the number of participants is small, this finding may be only the tip of iceberg  of diverse ill effects of heavy school bags that our students experience on a daily basis as they traverse between their school and dwellings over e few thousand meters of rough uneven foot paths. The risk is too obvious to pretend not to know. It is a fact that students cannot go to the school without books. Therefore health experts do not say that the students should not carry school bags. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends that it is alright for students to carry less than 10-15% of their body weight as mentioned in the beginning of this write up. This implies that our children can still carry some books in their school bags, which will allow them to complete their home tasks and other extended learning activities within their permissible limit of the weight of the school bag.  Many countries have implemented many measures. Some countries provide students with locker facilities in their class rooms for keeping their books. Some countries requires school to formulate students home work time tables so that students get home work in no more than two subjects in a day. According to experts, children needs proper rest and sufficient sleep for their all-round physical & mental development. It is fact that, in almost all the schools in Manipur, heavy home works are being given to these young & tender children. On the contrary, in Manipur, home work are being done either by parents or tuition teachers. Parents are happy when class teachers gave good marks for the home work done either by parents or tuition teacher. But is that mark, the mark obtained by real works of the children? Nobody cares. Some countries mandate schools to develop class time tables to use only some subjects on a day, not all the subjects. Some countries provide specifications for the size of note books. These remedial measures have no less potential in our country as well to address the ill effects of carrying excessively heavy school bag by our students. Our children, born in the Gross National Happiness(GNH) country, should not learn happily in the GNH-oriented schools but also develop into adulthood with healthy bodies ,free of the ill effects of heavy school bags as they graduate from their schools.

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh is a regular contributor of Imphal Times. Presently, he is teaching Mathematics at NIELIT. Jugeshwor can be reached at: [email protected] Or WhatsApp’s No: 9612891339.

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