When school bags are too heavy, not lifted properly or carried on one shoulder it leads to a strain in the soft tissues in the back. The daily repetition of these activities promotes incorrect posture, damage to the spine, permanent structural deformities and muscular tension throughout the body, according to Dr Tabraiz Khan.
“The pain and physical discomfort resulting from carrying a heavy school bag can also result in stress and lack of attentiveness in a child, affecting their learning in these precious formative years,” Dr Khan told SAMAA TV on its programme Naya Din on Friday.
He explained that carrying heavy backpacks can lead to fatigue, muscle strain, back pain, distortion of spines and rounding of the shoulders. “The pain associated with carrying a backpack is referred to as ‘backpack syndrome’,” said Dr Khan. “If children carry the bag on one shoulder it puts extra pressure on one side and is more dangerous for a growing spine. To carry a heavy bag, the child has to lean forward, which leads to a bad posture,” he explained.
He said students should only carry a single bag weighing at most 3kg. “The maximum weight a child should carry is 10% of their body weight including all things like their water bottle and lunch box,” said Dr Khan.
All Sindh Parents association President Hamoodur Rab Jaffery added that “two years ago more than 300 cases of students suffering from back pain were reported within a month.” He added that Civil Hospital asked the government to control these cases caused by heavy backpacks.
Jaffery explained that sometimes it’s difficult for parents to understand why children are complaining about their health, especially because they are still in the growing phase. “This has become a pressing issue as most children find it difficult to carry such heavy bags and are often not strong enough. Parents should work out alternative solutions if the child is complaining of pain. Buying the right kind of bag is also paramount.”
He suggested that parents should consider trolley bags to avoid such situations.
“The health, safety, and well-being of students are a priority for parents and the school management. Carrying heavy schoolbags is a concern for students and families,” said Jaffery. “Parents should arrange their children’s bags and remove the books that are not needed for that day.”
Jaffery also suggested that a proper budget should be allotted to all schools in order to arrange duplicate books that can be kept at schools.
All Pakistan Private Schools Federation President Kashif Mirza said that schools, parents and teachers should work together to tackle this issue for the betterment of the students.
“There are already a lot of burdens being faced by students, they have to go to school, then to tuition centres and then for Islamic education with all their books in a single bag,” said Mirza.
He remarked that parents are at fault because they don’t check their children’s bags. “Now, parents are only aware of what their kids are doing through parent-teacher meetings and other annual meetings organised by schools,” said Mirza. “Timetables have been made by schools to shift the load, but now parents don’t even bother checking their children’s diaries,” he exclaimed.
“We have appealed to many education authorities, ministers, governors and even to the prime minister that they should revise the curriculum and syllabus,” he added.
We are writing to all the textbook publishers to choose ring binding instead hard binding, as well, said Mirza. “We are writing to the government and asking them to fix the standard weight of the books and digitalize all the lectures,” he added.