Why School Bags In Kashmir Refuse To Shed Even a Bit of Weight?

by Rayees Masroor

This burden of bags on the backs of the children is not only affecting their physical health but also mental distress. Back pain in children must not be ignored if it is related to heavy school bags as the weight of the bag can even lead to permanent deformity.

KL File image

The burden of school bags has been a subject of debate for several years in educational circles. Educationists, psychologists and many child counsellors have often raised the consequences of heavy school bags on the health and well-being of children.

The National Council of Education Research and Training has already found that carrying heavy bags was bad for the health of the students, especially at pre-primary and primary levels. Several experts have been writing about this menace and have highlighted the issue at various levels.

Taking a strong note, The Policy on School Bag 2020 was announced by the union ministry of education in line with the much-talked New Education Policy (NEP)-2020. According to the policy, the total weight of a school bag for students from first to tenth class should not be more than 10 per cent of their body weight. The ministry recommended that schools should monitor the weight of the school bags on regular basis.

A 1950 photograph showing an open-air classroom in the harvested rice fields to help students stay warm.

With utter disregard to all these recommendations, research and guidelines, the weight of school bags is still on the rise with kids carrying heavy bags containing books, notebooks, colour boxes, sports equipment and sometimes musical instruments etc to attend school.

Such a huge burden of school bags on little children is quite dangerous. It is not only against basic human logic but also sheer injustice to the kids especially the ones attending primary or upper primary schools. This burden of bags on the backs of the children is not only affecting their physical health but also mental distress. Back pain in children must not be ignored if it is related to heavy school bags as the weight of the bag can even lead to permanent deformity.

In order to address the issue of heavy school bags carried by students in the valley, the Directorate of School Education Kashmir (DSEK) issued instructions to the schools to put a cap on the weight of school bags. Official communication has already been issued to all the Deputy Commissioners across Kashmir with a request to direct the Executive Magistrates in different areas to enforce the guidelines issued regarding the implementation of the School Bag Policy.

After the vacation: The three boys meet on the school premises in 2015 and got their bags on wheels. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

It has also been recommended that the executive magistrates will monitor the implementation of the guidelines during their visit to the schools in their jurisdictions so as to ensure proper implementation of the guidelines. The aim is to ensure the proper implementation of the policy at the ground level and executive magistrates in their respective jurisdictions will enforce School Bag Policy-2020 to ensure that no student carries a heavy burden on their tender shoulders.

It is pertinent to mention that the School Education Department (SED) in 2020 made certain amendments to the Jammu and Kashmir school education Act 2002 with an aim to ease the burden of the heavy bags carried by the children. As per the amendment, Rule 8A in the school education Act provides that the heads of the institutions were entrusted to ensure that no homework is assigned to students up to the second primary in all government as well as private schools affiliated with the Jammu and Kashmir Board of School Education but unfortunately the impact is very low on the ground.

Tassaduq Hussain Mir (KAS), Director of Education, Kashmir

The DSEK in its guidelines has made it clear that there should be no school bags for the children enrolled in kindergarten while the weight of the school bags for first and second primary should be 1.6 to 2.2 kg while 1.7 to 2.5 kgs for third to fifth classes. The weight of a school bag for class sixth and seventh students has been suggested to be 2 to 3 kg and 2.5 to 4kg for Class eighth students. The teachers have been put under strict instructions to take the responsibility of checking the weight of the school bags of the students.

Despite all these circulars and measures by the administration, there is no visible change on the ground. In the early mornings, you could still see little children with big heavy bags on their shoulders waiting for their school buses. The school heads as well as the management especially in the private institutions have failed to observe the guidelines under the school bag policy.

Private schools association addressing a press conference in Srinagar on November 13, 2018.
KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

It is quite disappointing to see parents not being able to address the issue as well. It is equally the responsibility of the parents to check the school bags of their children and in case of any violation, they must talk to the school heads or the management. Now the administration has also empowered the executive magistrates to ensure the proper implementation of the School Bag Policy.

Rayees Masroor

There also seems to be a lack of awareness about this grave issue. It needs immediate attention at different levels because these small kids will shape the destiny of the nation. The administration must also conduct surprise visits to the schools in order to check the real implementation of the recent guidelines issued by the DSEK. The school heads of the private institutions should also take cognisance of the issue and revisit their syllabus and home assignments at the primary levels, a well-designed timetable will help to lighten the burden on the students.

Carrying a light school bag will not compromise the reputation of the school but will give real relief to these young children who are bearing the burden of unnecessary books, assignments and other things they are asked to bring with them on a routine day to school. Let us hope this time around better sense prevails and these little children get freedom from the burden of heavy bags.

(Author is a teacher and columnist. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Kashmir Life.)

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