A Burden Too Heavy To Bear?


A recent study revealed that 30% of school-going kids complain of back pain. Heavy bags can cause permanent disability, so why isn’t anything being done to counter this issue?

Backache, spinal deformities and lung problems — this is the price that your little one is likely to pay as a result of heavy school bags. A recent study that found that heavy bags can result in permanent disability as growth is affected has set off alarm bells across the country.
Children today carry bags that are nearly 30-40% of their body weight, whereas, according to guidelines, bags must weigh no more than 10% of their body weight. Save My Back, an online petition by NGO Uday Foundation, aims to get 10,000 signatures in an effort to urge the minister of Human Resource Development to ensure that schools provide lockers and fine or derecognize schools that violate the guidelines set by the Professor Yashpal Committee and Central Board of Secondary Education. “Heavy bags are making healthy kids sick. Guidelines have been in place for 20 years now, but little has changed. Even the medical fraternity is worried,” says Ravi Verma of the Uday Foundation.

Ravi questions the need to carry numerous books when smart boards have made their way into classrooms and homework is being sent to parents online. “On one hand, there is progress being made with e-classrooms, but on the other, there is no change with regard to school bags. In addition to regular books, kids now also carry guide books, reference books and practise books, adding to the burden. What’s worse is that most primary classrooms are on the second or third floor, meaning they have to slog that much more,” adds Rahul.

Pediatric orthopedic surgeon Dr C Ranganath, who sees at least 3-4 children each month complaining of backache, confirms this. “Cases of backache in children are usually rare, so when I see children with such complaints, the culprit is usually heavy bags. Backaches, deformities of the back, change in posture and shoulder problems are all a result of carrying heavy loads. A deformity of the spine can also affect the growth of lungs as there is pressure on the chest wall,” he says. The first thing Ranganath suggests is reducing the weight of school bags.

Dr Murali Mohan, a neuro and spine surgeon, says the weight of schoolbags must be restricted to 10% of the child’s body weight, and adds that it is important that children are encouraged to be more physically active. “Children are definitely burdened with carrying heavy school bags. Unlike adults, they are unable to adjust their body posture while they walk, so they assume a stooped posture, which results in asymmetric distribution of the weight along the spine. When they do this repeatedly, damage to certain regions of the spine — especially the discs — takes place, resulting in early degeneration, which leads to back pain. This, done over a period of time, can result in chronic back pain, which becomes more pronounced later on in life,” he warns.

Taking a serious note of the issue is Little Flower Public School in Banashankari III Stage. The school has imposed a ‘no bag day’ on Wednesdays and on other days, parents are asked to ensure that their wards’ bags must be light enough for them to carry with their little finger. “Apart from this, we have done away with conventional methods of teaching. Homework is rarely given, and even when we do give it, it is only for two subjects. Worksheets have replaced books are they are lighter. We also have a locker system for higher classes,” says principal Dr Mrs B Gayethri Devi.

But not all schools have followed suit. Denet Pradeep, whose daughter is in Class III, is not happy that she has to lug a very heavy bag to school every day. “From Class III onwards, children have textbooks for each subject and they are expected to carry all notebooks and textbooks every day. The textbooks have work activities that are either given as homework or have to be revised. This can be easily avoided, given that the school has an online portal on which assignments can be posted. In fact, for kids up to Class II, all assignments are posted online,” says Denet.

Source : http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-10-27/parenting/43416135_1_heavy-school-bags-backache-deformities

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