As many as 68 per cent of school going children, especially between 7-13 years of age, face the risk of backaches and other related problems, courtesy heavy loads of books and sporting kits, they carry in their school bags which weigh between 40-45 per cent of the weight of the kids, according to an ASSOCHAM Healthcare Committee findings ahead of Teacher’s Day (September 5).
The findings are sad and alarming as according to the latest survey coinciding with the Teacher’s Day (September 5) noted, over 88% of children in the age group of 7-13 carry more than 45% of their weight on their backs. According to the Children’s School Bag Act 2006, a schoolbag should not weigh more than 10 per cent of a child’s weight.
Despite the government several reminders to schools, children still endure the backbreaking task of carrying more than 40-45% of their weight on their backs includes art kit, skates, taekwondo equipment, a swim bag, cricket kit every alternate day etc leading to serious spinal damage and irreversible back problems, according to the ASSOCHAM recent survey.
According to a recent survey conducted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) under its Healthcare Committee found that 68% school-going children under the age of 13 years across the country may suffer from mild back pain, which can develop into chronic pain, and later, into hunchback.
“Early slip disc, spondylitis, spondylolisthesis, persistent back ache, early degeneration of spine and postural scoliosis are just some of the problems that these children face,” said Dr BK Rao, chairman of Assocham’s health committee.
The survey was conducted in 10 cities, including Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Jaipur and Dehradun, where more than 2,500 students and 1,000 parents were interviewed.
“Excessive and uneven loads have been linked to an increased risk of back trouble and deformation of the spine. Stress from such excess weights may affect the growth of the musculoskeletal system. If children start getting back pains at such a young age, then there is the possibility that they will have it life long,” remarked Dr. Rao.
A majority of the parents surveyed complained that on an average, their children carry 20-22 books for a day’s seven to eight periods. Add to the load skates, taekwondo equipment, a swim bag and a cricket kit every alternate day etc. Very few schools provide lockers for the sports kits.
From Class III onwards, children have textbooks for each subject and they are expected to carry all notebooks and textbooks every day. In addition to regular books, kids now also carry resource books, reference books and practice books, adding to the burden. The primary classrooms are on the second or third floor, meaning they have to slog that much more, reveals the survey.
Carrying very heavy backpacks can lead to musculoskeletal problems, especially if children carry the bag on one shoulder. It puts extra pressure on one side, tilting the spine, said Dr. Rao. Keeping the bag down and then carrying it again is more dangerous for a growing spine than continuously walking with static weight, added Dr. Rao.
The excess weight puts undue stress on the muscles, ligaments and disk thus damaging them. The alignment of the column is also disturbed causing it to bend, mostly forward or sideways. In other words, a heavy bag puts the child’s health and physical development at risk which can hamper his/her overall growth.
As the law sees it…
As per the Children’s Schoolbag Act of 2006:
- A schoolbag should not weigh over 10% of the body weight.
- Nursery and kindergarten students should carry no schoolbag.
- Schools should issue guidelines on bags.
- The state government should provide appropriate lockers at schools.
But the reality is
- Children carryover 40-45% of their weight on their backs
- Even nursery and kindergarten students are not spared
- Schools don’t have appropriate lockers
- They have no guidelines on bags
- Back, neck and shoulder pain along with tingling, numbness and weakness in the hands.
- Fatigue and an early development of poor posture.
Long term ill-effects:
- Strain on the neck and shoulder leading to headaches.
- Damage to the spine giving rise to problems like kyphosis –hunched back or spine bent forward.
- Scoliosis – spine bent sideways.
- Reduced breathing capacity due to pressure on the lungs resulting from a forward or sideways bent posture.
- Back pains and muscle spasms as young adults which can be traced back to heavy schoolbags.
- Carrying excess weight could damage these growth centres leading to stunted or abnormal growth of the bones of the child.
- School authorities should make it mandatory for students to carry light bags.
- There should be lockers where students can keep their books and other things which are only needed in the classroom.
- Schools can allow students to carry one big notebook with sections for all subjects instead of different ones for various subjects.