Eight-year-old Pihu Tiwari runs a marathon every morning with nearly 12 kilos loaded on her back.
At least that’s what her walk from the school gate to her second-floor classroom feels like.
She doesn’t just get tired but often pants her way up the staircase. “She is thin and weighs 29kg. And every day, she has to carry a bag to school which is almost half her weight. My heart goes out to her as I fear it may start affecting her back. I myself find it too heavy to carry it to the schoolbus,” said mother Sunita Tiwari.
Pihu’s back may be spared as human resource development (HRD) ministry recently proposed to come up with a system in which chapters of a book can be segregated for every term making the bags lighter.
Schools are trying too. In all branches of Bal Bharti Public School, the weight of bags is regularly monitored. The teachers weigh the bags every morning and a monthly report is submitted to the principal.
“After going through these reports, sensitization programmes are held among parents and they are explained on what books are to be carried to the school on a particular day,” said LV Sehgal, principal of Bal Bharti.
“We have also devised a roster to make sure homework for all subjects is not given on the same day. Also children are allowed to leave their musical instruments and music books in the school.”
Acknowledging that a majority of children aged below 10 suffer from orthopaedic problems because of heavy bags, Maharashtra recently fixed the responsibility of reducing bag weight with the principal and set November 30 as the deadline for implementing reforms. The maximum weight to be carried by students of classes 1 to 8 was fixed between 1.8kg and 3.4kg.
Parents complain that Delhi schools often fail to provide individual lockers and ask students to carry two notebooks and books each for maths, Hindi and English, completely ignoring the NCERT syllabi. To deal with this, in schools like GD Goenka, homework is sent and submitted online.
“No class would get more than two subjects’ homework a day,” said Rima Aliwadi, principal of GD Goenka School, Model Town.
In Springdales School, Pusa Road, they are trying to implement a system where students are divided into groups with each using one textbook.
Students often carry fancy bags and steel bottles adding up to a kilo to their load.
Schools say parents need to make an equal effort too., while parents blame the school’s fascination with fancy books supplied by private publishers for heavy bags.