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Deccan Herald » Panorama » Detailed Story
Burden of education
By Sujata Rajpal
My son, now 12, on his first train journey was so impressed with the porters marching on the platform that for many years whenever any one would ask him about his ambition in life, much to everyone’s amusement, his usual answer would be “I want to become a coolie.”

Coolies’ walking briskly balancing couple of suitcases on their heads and a few bags tossed casually on each shoulder swamped his impressionable mind.

Associating power and strength with the capability to carry weight, at a tender age he had made up his mind to become a coolie.

Little did he realise that his wish would be fulfilled so soon and he would not have to wait till adulthood to become a coolie.

Yes, today he carries 25 kg weight everyday on his back in the name of ingredients for a brilliant future and he is no exception. Weight lifting becomes part of the curriculum as soon as the child enters the school.

Spotting children waiting at the bus stop with their backs bent by the weight of their bags full, I feel blessed to be born in those times when I could work towards a bright future without carrying kilos on my back.

Columns of print space have been used, committees have been formed and debates have been held on how to reduce the weight of the school bag but unmindful of that, year after year the school bag continues to grow from strength to strength. Studies indicate that really heavy packs can change the natural ‘S’ curve of the spine.

Children carrying bags weighing more than 10 per cent of their body weight have been found to have poorer lung function but does anyone care?

The school authorities simply say that it is not in their hands and due to lengthy syllabus and faulty education system they are unable to lessen the burden.

Talk to education boards and they have a clean sweep by blaming it on the schools.

The harried parents too feel helpless. The buck is passed on and the child suffers silently. Each one waits for the other to initiate and do something about it.

What schools can do : A duplicate set of textbooks can be purchased by the children — one set for the school and one for home.

Have lockers for children in the school where they can leave the extra books.

This system has been successfully introduced in a few schools in Bangalore. Schools can also introduce a common notebook for homework and class work or one notebook for three subjects together.

A little modification in the timetable can go a long way in lessening the burden of the bag.

Steps parents can take: Choose a schoolbag with broad, padded straps. Educate your children on how to carry the bag on their back and not sling it loosely on one shoulder.

Ensure that your child is carrying only thosebooks, which are required for the day and no extra accessories.

What education boards can do: Divide the textbook into three portions, one for each semester. Make semester system compulsory in all the schools. Enforce schools to take steps to reduce the weight of the bag. Like all other things in life, it takes courage to take initiative and bring a change, however small it may be.

We Indians are very good at talking and cribbing but standing up and taking action…let someone else start it. The blame game continues. Let’s not consider this as another ‘piece’ on heavy school bags and throw it after reading, let’s not forget that each of us can make a difference.
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