Post-pandemic return to school a back-breaking exercise for kids
The weight of school bags borne by kids has been a sore spot for both parents as well as institutions for many years, leading to a petition being filed by in the Bombay high court in 2015
Mumbai: Soon after schools reopened following the pandemic driven lockdown, a painful issue commonly faced by children has surfaced once again -- the inappropriate weight of school bags foisted on them. This has led to a slew of complaints from parents following a rise in cases of backache and fatigue felt by children.
“Many students carrying heavy schoolbags have been complaining about backaches. While some schools try to accommodate students’ needs by providing lockers and opting for books with perforated sheets and worksheets, there are others that cannot provide these solutions,” said Arundhati Chavan, president, Parent Teachers Association United Forum. She added, despite following a timetable, students end up carrying 7-8 kg-heavy bags.
Shraddha Chachad, a Sion-resident and parent of a 10-year-old, said, “My son regularly carries a schoolbag which is at least six to seven kilogrammes heavy. He has to bear the burden as he climbs up and down three floors at school. He often returns home exhausted and with lower back pain. This started after schools reopened in June this year.”
The weight of school bags borne by kids has been a sore spot for both parents as well as institutions for many years, leading to a petition being filed by a Pune-based activist in the Bombay high court in 2015. This prompted a government appointed committee to release recommendations, including one that puts a cap on the weight of school bags at 10% of the student’s body weight. In 2020, the union education department released the ‘Policy on School Bag 2020’, highlighting the same cap on their weight.
Lack of physical activity among school students over the last two years has also led to high cases of weak bones being reported. “Initially when schools reopened, a rise in kids being diagnosed with rickets was observed, caused by prolonged Vitamin D deficiency. I observed about 10 to 15 cases of rickets a week, which decreased to four to five a week eventually,” said Dr Manish Sontakke, consultant orthopedic surgeon, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi.
Doctors have also blamed the backaches on bad posture of students as they took online classes from their homes over the last two years. “Kids would tend to sit in ungainly positions while attending the classes or playing games, which has adversely affected their gait. In school, students sit on benches which helps them maintain their postures. Kids will struggle with physical training for some time,” said Dr Kavita Gohil, a consultant paediatrician at Criticare Asia Multispecialty Hospital, Kurla.
Meanwhile, several city schools are trying to ease students into the new routine, after two years of online classes. The Podar International School, in Santacruz, introduced a cupboard system for the students in April this year. “We did not want the students to carry anything. During the pandemic, students studied digitally; we have asked them to continue the same process and bring their devices to school. They keep their notebooks in the cupboard and only carry home necessary books,” said Vandana Lulla, principal of the school.
While rules regarding appropriate weight of schoolbags exist, school officials feel the government must reiterate the policies, especially post-pandemic. “The last circular issued by the government was before the pandemic, but there’s been no word about the same either from the civic body or the state education department since. While some schools are following the previous circular, many are still not,” said Uday Nare, Supervisor, Hansraj Morarji Public School, Andheri West.