Nearly six months after a policy was introduced to make school bags lighter, more than 30% of school students are still carrying overweight bags to class, random checks by the deputy directorate of education have revealed. Education experts say the percentage could be even higher, given that the checks were conducted during exams, when students generally do not carry many books.
In their surprise checks on March 21, education officials weighed the bags of 4,569 students from 212 schools and found that 1,394 were carrying bags that weighed more than 10% of their body weight – the limit set by the state government. The checks were conducted after the Bombay high court pulled up the state for not monitoring the implementation of the policy, which was framed last November.
In the western suburbs, 65% of students were found to be carrying overweight bags, compared to 34.51% in the central suburbs and just 18.55% in south Mumbai.
“We found that 15% to 35% of schools across the city have still not managed to limit the weight of school bags,” said BB Chavan, deputy director of education, Mumbai region. “This is a worrying trend, which highlights that the policy is still not being implemented properly.”
However, Chavan said the directorate has not yet planned punitive action against the schools. Instead, they want to focus on sensitising students and parents about the issue. “We can send show-cause notices and stop salary increments of school principals who have not been able to reduce the weight of school bags. But it’s not only their fault; parents and students are equally to blame for the heavy bags,” said Chavan.
The random checks revealed that though several schools have asked students to carry books according to the timetable, many students continue to carry overweight bags to school. “There is no parental supervision while packing bags and as a result students carry many extra books and other non-essential items,” Chavan added. “And some bags weigh three to four kilos even when empty,” he said.
Petitioners who had filed public interest litigation in the high court last year, calling for the creation and implementation of a policy to reduce weight of school bags, said the number of schools flouting the norms could be much higher that the checks revealed. “These checks were conducted in the middle of exams hence they do not show the true picture,” said Swati Patil, one of the petitioners.