Maharashtra lightens schoolkids’ burden, sets weight limit for bags

  • Sayli Udas Mankikar, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Jul 22, 2015 23:13 IST

Maharashtra has taken a load off school students’ growing shoulders. Children studying in public and private schools will now have to carry a bag that weighs just 10% of their total body weight.

This means a Class 1 student, whose weight averages 20.1kg, should not have a bag weighing more than 2,010g or 2kg and a Class 8 student, whose weight averages 42kg, should not have to carry more than 4,200g or 4.2kg. It will be the parents’ responsibility to ensure this is followed, but the schools and government will also weigh the bags to keep a check.

In a government resolution (GR) dated July 21, the education department listed steps to be taken by parents, schools and the education department to unburden students. The list includes installing water drinking facilities in schools, initiating canteen facilities, reworking timetables, lockers and introducing e-learning initiatives.

The suggestions made in the resolutions are based on the report tabled by a committee formed to come up with solutions to make school bags lighter. The government had appointed the committee following a public interest litigation filed by activist Swati Patil in the Bombay high court on the issue of heavy bags that is causing orthopaedic ailments. Education minister Vinod Tawde tabled the report, as part of the GR in the state assembly and council on Wednesday.

While the report observed the average weight of bags is about 30% of the weight of students, the water bottle and tiffins occupy huge spaces, especially in urban cities like Mumbai.

“The intention is to ensure students have a tension-free and healthy childhood, which is free of physical ailments caused by heavy bags. This will be applicable to SSC and other boards,” said the July 21. The GR has put a responsibility on students, schools and on the education department to get the new suggestions rolling.

Parents have been asked to weigh their children and ensure the weight of the bags is 10% of that weight. Apart from helping their children fill in their bag the previous night, as per the next day’s timetable, it has also been recommended that they buy lighter bags. As far as the tiffin in concerned, for students who study in private schools, parents should discuss mid-day meals with the schools. In case this is not possible, they should give light meals, the department has said. Similar provisions should be made for drinking water.

Schools have been asked to encourage e-learning, rework timetables, reducing the width of notebooks, not cram more than 3 to 4 subjects on a given day and ensure books are equally distributed over the days, While no books should be allotted as homework for Class 1 and Class 2 students, it has been recommended to club notebooks for related subjects. For subjects like craft, drawing, computer education, material should be kept in the school itself. In the later stages, schools should create lockers, hangers or racks wherever possible, and rooms to keep books just like libraries.

The education department has been asked to get the various school boards to slowly switch to e-books and e-learning, which will eliminate the use of heavy books.

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