November 28, 2018

Heavy school bags are a health risk for Indian children

Heavy school bags increase risk of back pain and bad posture

Photo credit: Sandra Cohen

The government has issued guidelines after a study found most students aged seven to 13 carry over 45% of their body weight on their backs.

Concerned about producing a generation of children with hunched backs and other spine problems, India has denounced schools for making students carry heavy school bags and giving young children homework.

The government has issued weight guidelines for school bags depending on a child's age, citing studies that show how the load can affect soft, developing spines.

One survey done by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India found that 68% of pre-teen children might suffer from mild back pain, which can develop into chronic back pain and later into a hunchback.

The study, which covered more than 2500 children and 1000 parents in major cities, found that more than 88% of children from seven to 13 carry more than 45% of their body weight on their backs.

Rashmi Tapke, a mother of two, said heavy school bags reflect poor timetable planning and said she supports the federal initiative.

Children in India face the risk of backaches due to the load of books in their bags

Photo credit: Adam Cohn

"If they (schools) plan, they can repeat the subjects taught and thus reduce the load. My kids find it difficult to carry so many books," Tapke, whose children attend a private school in Mumbai, said.

The state of Maharashtra, where Mumbai is located, mandates that the weight on the bag should not exceed 10% of the child's body weight. Many schools there have started using white boards and projectors to ensure text books are not required to be carried to school.

But in large parts of rural India, children have to walk great distances, weighed down by school bags. Children have been known to ford rivers, some with books on their heads, to get to school.

"My frail daughter has to haul about four to five kilos of books in her school bag and also carry her lunch box and water bottle in a separate bag," said driver Rajinder Shukla, whose child attends a school in the most populous state Uttar Pradesh.

The federal circular also suggests that no homework be assigned to kids in grades 1 and 2 which will also ensure they don't need to carry books home.

Government's school bags guidelines

Classes I and II - not above 1.5kg
Classes III to V - between 2kg and 3kg
Classes VI and VII - not above 4kg
Classes VIII and IX - not above 4.5kg
Class X - not above 5kg

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