| WEAK FOR SHOULDERS: Schoolchildren, saddled with heavy bags, wait to board a bus in Patna. Telegraph picture |
For kids, going to school is a bagful of misery.
Schoolbags stuffed with textbooks of all subjects, exercise books, reference books, atlas, water bottle and lunch box often becomes too heavy for students to carry. But they go through the ordeal silently.
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) in 2008-09 had instructed the schools affiliated to it to not to prescribe unwanted reference books to prevent schoolbags becoming heavy. Yet, most of the students have to bear the burden of books.
A textbook normally weighs 250gm, a notebook 500gm, a reference book 750gm, an atlas 400-500gm, a water-filled bottle half- a-kg and lunch box more than 200gm. The bag itself weighs around 1kg. On an average, the weight of schoolbags vary between 9kg and 15kg, depending on the class the student is in. (See graphics)
Students are forced to carry such cumbersome load on their back to the schools at least five days a week. The government or the competent authorities ought to look into the matter not only to minimise the load but also to prevent students from carrying unnecessary load.
A few schools have prescribed four textbooks for English in classes IV and V. The books are not voluminous, but the number is high. Though the CBSE says the schools should prescribe only National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) books, students are asked to bring reference books too.
DAV BSEB principal Ramanuj Prasad said: “In classes IX and X, it is not compulsory that students have to use the reference books (of publication houses). In fact, it’s for their benefit and it depends on them whether they use it or not. Since our teachers find NCERT books very difficult, they suggest reference books.”
Students, however, believe over the years the number of reference books has outnumbered the original textbook.
A Class XI student, who did not wish to be named, said: “In the past few years, we have witnessed that the number of reference books is increasing. There could be many reasons for this. One logic could be that teachers are not talented enough and therefore they prefer reference books.
“Second, competition is getting fierce day by day. Publishers use catchy lines in their advertisements and students tend to get attracted. If we talk about NCERT books, every sentence is difficult to understand. Therefore, teachers recommend reference books, though they should explain the meaning of the sentences themselves.”
Parents, on the other hand, think it is mostly the ICSE- and CBSE-affiliated schools that force students to carry heavy bags.
A guardian said: “You will find that mostly students of ICSE- and CBSE-affiliated schools carry heavy bags. The reason being they have to carry both the rough and fair notebooks to the school daily. When it comes to geography classes, it is imperative to carry the atlas.”
Agreed Neeti Jain, whose two children aged 10 and 17 study in a city school.
“The weight of a schoolbag is bound to increase. There are several notebooks for a single subject. The number sometimes ranges between two and five. My children have to carry three notebooks for some subjects daily. They have to climb up to the second floor of their school with heavy bags.”
Doctors feel that the practice of carrying heavy bags daily can cause problem for children in the long run.
Child specialist Dr Kiran Sharan said: “The most common health problem among schoolchildren which I come across is back and neck pain. They are bound to face postural deformities. They find it difficult to stand straight. Later, their height increase takes a beating.”
D.K. Singh, the chairman of Bihar Public Schools and Children Welfare Association, said the burden is totally man-made.
“The trend of carrying heavy schoolbags has been noticed in the past 10 to 12 years. This is because of the mismanagement of the central government, the CBSE, ICSE, publications and the private schools. All of us should jointly make an effort so that students do not have to bear such a heavy burden,” Singh said.