The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has ordered the formulation of a working group to analyse the ever-increasing weight and dimensions of school bags, and their worsening effects on the physical being of young children.

Experts have for years warned parents and school administrations about the ill-effect carrying heavy school bags can have on a child’s spine, which is still developing along the child’s other body parts. Medical experts put the ideal weight to be carried by a child to be around a tenth of his or her body weight. However, children are often seen hunched as they carry backpacks around as heavy as themselves. Pressure to conform to teachers’ requests and the usual severe punishment associated with forgetting a note or textbook at home often leads children to stretching the school bags and themselves to the limit with the weight of books.

The Potential Damage

In order to balance the load of a heavy school bag, a child often has to lean forward, causing an unnatural bend in the spine. The resultant bad posture puts excess stress on the muscles, ligaments and disks formulating the spine, making them prone to long-term damage.

Children’s skeletons are still in the development stage and such abuse of the skeletal structure through heavy school bags can lead to problems like neck and shoulder sprains, headaches, damage to spine in the form of hunched back or forward bent spine and scoliosis – the bending of spine sideways.

It’s a great gesture that the KP government has taken note of this malaise among children and asked the working group to analyse the situation and devise thorough alternatives. The Elementary and Secondary Education (E&SE) special secretary will preside over the working group as the chairman, while Provincial Institute of Teachers Education director, one nominee of each education director, and General Health Service director will be active members of this working group. The working group has been bound to put forward its recommendations within 21 working days and allowed to co-opt any person if deems appropriate.

According to the term of references issued on Sunday, the KP working group will frame a standard maximum weight of the school bags keeping in view that the school bag should not exceed the 10 percent of the body weight of students.

The group will propose the ways to reduce the backpack weight by recommending adjustments in timetable, class work, and homework using modern methods such as eBooks and different printing techniques.

It will also formulate a communication plan to raise awareness about the health hazards of heavy backpacks among parents, teachers, the general public, and students, and will educate the students on correct ways of wearing backpacks.

Abbasi Shaheed Hospital deputy medical superintendent initially raised this issue in Karachi by writing letters to the principals of schools in the city and mentioned that a large number of children were visiting his clinic for the stiff neck, shoulder pain, and backache which could lead to severe lumbago. He had requested the principals to take serious note of the issue and formulate a system of bringing specific books as per daily timetable.


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