School students buckling under bag weight

school students buckling under bag weight School students buckling under bag weightDubai Schoolbags that UAE children carry are grossly overweight causing them pain and discomfort.

Early this week, XPRESS did the rounds of some Dubai communities, weighing scale in hand, and sought permission from willing parents to weigh their children’s schoolbags. What we discovered confirmed their worst fears.

Bur Dubai-based Amit, a Class VI student at an Indian school in Sharjah, had two bags with him – one on the back with his books, lunch box and water bottle and the other, his table tennis kit, slung on his shoulder. The two backpacks together weighed 16.76kg, nearly half his body weight of 35 kg. “I knew his bags were too heavy, just look at his crouched posture,” said his mother.

A few blocks away, Shreya, 6, a Grade 1 student in Dubai, weighed 17 kg. But her schoolbag and lunch pack added 4.5kg to her little frame.

Last year, a Federal National Council (FNC) member warned that a growing number of children are developing irreversible back deformities because of heavy schoolbags.

Health experts said half of all children suffer back pain by the age of 14 and cases of spinal abnormalities in pupils, including scoliosis, a disfiguring curvature, are on the rise. The FNC was told that children are carrying as much as 27 per cent of their weight to and from school — 12 per cent more than what is permissible.

Dr Saud Trebinjac, Head of Physical Medicine at Rashid Hospital, told XPRESS: “Carrying heavy bags on the back can not only cause pain and discomfort in the short term but also affect muscles and result in bad posture in the long run. It can be very dangerous.”

Our rounds found that the average weight of a Grade 1 student’s schoolbag ranged from 2.8 to 5.1kg, while that of a Grade 3 student hovered between 3.2 and 5.5 kg.

Higher the class, heavier the bag

The higher the class, the heavier the bags got, crossing 8-9 kg with Grade 6 or 7. The bag of one Class 9 student from an Indian school which had his sports kit in it weighed 11.7 kg. “My back aches sometimes,” he said.

A Grade 10 girl, who had a trolley bag, said: “I used to carry a backpack but my shoulders started paining. So now I use a wheelie.”

“CBSE textbooks are very heavy,” said Ravi Kumar, father of a Class 9 boy.

It was the same lament even with other curricula. The father of a Grade 11 student at an international school in Dubai said: “As a parent of five children, I have seen schoolbags increase in size. My oldest son used to take a small satchel to school. My youngest son now in Grade 11 is 17. I have just weighed his schoolbag. It is 6.5 kg. With his sports kit, the weight can approach nine-10 kg on a busy day.”

Although many schools provide lockers, their use remains debatable. The father of five said: “My son prefers to keep most of his books with him, as well as his lunch, laptop, charger and supplies for subjects such as art and design.”

Veena, mother of a Class 6 boy, said: “The lockers have no provision to keep sports kits. There have been instances of children losing books, so they would rather bring them home.”

Dr Ashok Kumar, CEO, Indian High School, said: “Our students have a set time-table based on which they may be required to use textbooks, However, it has been noticed that parents are often negligent about the schedule and stuff the bags with heavy books, which may not be needed on a daily basis. Sometimes students carry all their books with them despite having a storage space on campus. Slowly, we are moving towards a digital education zone, with introduction to curricula friendly tablets, which will lessen their load. Introduction to flipped classrooms will also allow them to get out of the habit of bringing textbooks, which are mostly for references.”

Clive Pierrepont of the Taaleem group of schools, said: “There are no rules regarding the weight of bags that students carry. Our primary school children have allocated spaces for books in their classroom and do not have to take them home. Older children have secure lockers. So they only need take their laptops and essential study items back and forth.”

He said: “We are working towards classrooms of the future where everything will be stored in the cloud and with a simple login, will be accessed in 3D from surfaces that will be an integral part of the classroom or their home such as plastic disposable tiles, desk surfaces, walls or even smart glass windows. All the students will need to carry is a password or just their hand for finger or handprint access.”

© Gulf News

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