It is morning 8.00 am school time. One can see scores of children walking towards their schools. They walk slowly, bent double under the weight of their heavy school bags. The huge schoolbags are like a camel’s hump!
They walk with their feet dragging slowly, muscles straining and aching back. Yes, children develop backache issues and spinal dislocations due to the burden they carry. It has come to the point where some students don’t like going to school simply because they have to carry a heavy schoolbag.
What then is the weight of the ideal school bag? How much should children carry? How can their schoolbag load be reduced? Let us discuss.
Ideal weight of a Schoolbag
The maximum weight that a child carries in their backpack inclusive of their books, lunch box/snacks and a water bottle should be ideally one-tenth their body weight. This figure has been quoted by reputed paediatricians and spinal doctors. According to a survey, currently, the schoolbag of a child weighs at least double the ideal figure! Children carry loads from 20% of their body weight to even 50% or half their body weight! In the UK, the weight of the schoolbag stands at 20% while in India, it sometimes exceeds 50%!
What happens if the Schoolbag is too heavy?
Carrying an overweight schoolbag makes children look almost like porters or dock-workers. However, one must keep in mind that in contrast to the paid labourer, the body of a child is feeble and their bones are weak. It doesn’t matter if the child is a girl or a boy. They are hardly equipped physically to carry loads. So, children develop physical ailments on account of carrying a school bag.
Physical Ailments due to Carrying a Heavy Schoolbag
1. Musculoskeletal problems
The most dangerous consequence of carrying a heavy schoolbag is developing muscle and spine problems.
When children carry a heavy bag, they lean or bend forward. This causes bad posture.
If the child carries the bag on one shoulder, it is highly dangerous as it leads to tilting of the spine. The vertebral column is affected as the heavyweight compresses the intervertebral disks leading to their wear and tear. The disks are at times even shifted from their original positions causing terrible pain, weakness and numbness in the neck, shoulders, arms or legs. Schoolbags are literally a pain in the neck.
Severe Spinal injuries caused by carrying the heavy load of the schoolbag are:
- Kyphosis – Hunched back or bent spine
- Scoliosis – Spine tilted sideways
- Cervical Spondylosis – A compression of the discs in the neck area leading to pain or numbness in the neck and in the arms.
2. Bad posture
The child’s physical bearing or stance may be affected and he may adopt a slouching or hunching posture or uneven shoulders. This may, on a long run, again lead to cervical or spine issues.
A wrong or bad posture also affects the personality of the child as every child wishes to stand erect and tall. Not able to stand erect or upright diminishes the self-confidence of the child.
3. Muscular spasms and aches
The pressure of the schoolbag on the child’s backs applies unwanted stress on the muscles, joints and ligaments. This causes muscular spasms, back, neck and shoulder pain, joint aches and even ligament tear. If not properly attended to, these minor ailments may lead to grave consequences later.
The straps of the schoolbag are on the child’s shoulders. The heavy bag tugs at the shoulders and neck. This strains the neck and shoulder muscles leading to an acute pain in these areas. This pain then slowly leads to a headache and sometimes even a migraine.
5. Difficulty in breathing
When the child’s posture bends, his lungs are subjected to pressure, causing difficulty in breathing. This causes breathlessness, fatigue and even dizziness.
Why does the Schoolbag Weigh so Much?
We have understood the gravity of the situation of carrying a heavy schoolbag. But we still do not know why it weighs so much. The reasons could be these:
1. Books not stacked according to the timetable.
Every School has a Time Table for each class. Check if your child has stacked their bag according to the Time Table. Sometimes, the child may be lazy or they might have lost their Time Table. In this situation, the child may just bundle up all of their books leading to a heavy schoolbag.
2. Pressure from teachers to bring all books
In higher classes, some class teachers may insist on the children bringing all the books. This is to take extra classes during lean or free periods. This leads to the child bringing all books in spite of having a Timetable.
3. Too many books on one subject
In some cases, the School syllabus may have too many books on one subject. The teacher might have asked the child to allot separate notebooks for each segment. For instance, English alone may have a notebook or book each for Literature, Grammar, Non-detailed, Composition etc. Just imagine, four books and four notebooks for just English! No wonder the schoolbag is heavy.
A lot of clarity and some common sense and understanding on the part of the teachers and School would help in addressing the above issues.
How to Avoid a Heavy Schoolbag
All this is fine. But where is the solution, you may ask? Well, here are some.
1. Do away with the Schoolbag
In some countries, the cumbersome schoolbag has been done away with. Children carry laptops or iPads to school. All classwork and homework assignments are done online. This has given tremendous relief to both children and parents.
2. Leave half the books at school.
Most schools western countries have lockers for each child. The child can leave their daily books, sports gear or musical equipment safely there, under lock and key. Thus, the child only brings their assignments or homework books to school, carrying a light schoolbag.
3. Rework the Timetable
The School and its teachers can rework the timetable to minimize the class sessions or group similar sessions. This enables the child to carry fewer books and a light schoolbag.
4. Have a separate Transport system for Schoolbags
One school in Kerala in India has adopted this unique system. Children go empty-handed to school while a separate van carries their school and lunch bags. Easy, isn’t it?
The Indian Government should really try to think of more such innovative solutions to make the schoolbag lighter.
We are already doing our part at Let’s Practise by creating practise sheets and tests for your child. We have condensed the enormous chunks of material into simple parts that are easy to understand.
Students from 3rd to 9th standard can find practise papers for a variety of subjects including math, science, and languages. Many school boards from CBSE to ICSE to SSC are covered. Our worksheets make a good supplement to those big fat textbooks.
Academics are sometimes a burden on the child. Let the schoolbag not make it heavier. Call us now to get started.