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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Sticks to make bags lighter

Paris, Sept. 13: Schoolchildren on the Cote d’Azur are being supplied with memory sticks in a pioneering scheme to ease the back-breaking load of books and equipment that they are obliged to lug daily from home.

All 13,000 pupils starting secondary school in the Alpes-Maritime department — based in Nice — have received 512-megabyte sticks which will be pre-loaded with selected texts and used to transport classwork and exercises. Pupils will still have to carry most text books, but the scheme should ease the burden.

Every September there is an outcry from parents as children stagger back to school under the load of new books. College, or junior secondary pupils, typically carry about 10 kg in their cartables (satchels). Primary children carry 4 to 6 kg.

This is far above the maximum of 10 per cent of the child’s weight, laid down by Segolene Royal when she was schools minister in 1995. Royal urged schools to install lockers, but traditionalists branded the idea too American.

Christiane Alain, head of health for Federation of Parent-Teachers Councils, said that school bag weight was a serious concern. “The memory stick is an interesting idea, provided that every pupil is equipped with a computer. I get a bit annoyed when they always make the computer a solution. Books have their virtues and they should be kept.”

In the Alpes-Maritimes, 80 per cent of pupils have computers at home and all have access to them at school. “It is usually the better-off families who do not have computers for ideological reasons,”

Eric Goldinger, an education official, said. “The aim of the stick is to help to transfer class lessons. The teacher can store lessons and pupils download them on the school website. This will mean they do not have to carry their exercise books all the time.”

Schools have also introduced electronic blackboards so that everything the teacher draws or writes can be stored on the memory sticks.

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