Reyaz Ahmad Mir
With the outset of new academic session, people are rushing to shops to buy stationary items and school bags for their kids. The uniforms, books and allied things are sold through proxy or otherwise by the institutions the children are enrolled in. Anyway, children are laden with heavy load and parents are easily taken on board.
I had a pathetic observation when all parent-buyers were asking the shop keepers for big sized bags for their primary class kids. Obviously, there is a huge load of books and notebooks which needs a sack not a bag to accommodate. This is an open child rights violation being let to go without nudging the attention of activists towards the much lovable victimisation of the children.
Ergonomic educational environment of the school encompasses suitable seating arrangement, lighting, ventilation, modern study equipments and the approved bags for the children to carry.
Leaving aside the other ergonomic prerequisites for a moment, our little children mostly of private institutions suffer from the unbearable weight of the school bags which is disproportionate to their age and capacity.
For the last couple of days, I have been observing that many children are jubilant with their new bags full of books, notebooks, lunch boxes and water bottles carrying again and again actually trying whether they could carry them to school.
Pertinently, all parents can't afford to send their wards in their own vehicles with drivers caring them from the door steps of home to the school gates.
Some children feel the burden of bags and share the agony but no one even their own parents listens them to help because the private set up has strongly emerged and trying to be recognised as parallel education regime where every institution has its own curriculum to follow in order to make it falsely realise that this is the only institution to give the best.
In this mad race, they in fact steal the wonderful childhood days of the children and gradually involve them in various health issues too.
In 2016, two 7th grade students in Chandrapur, Maharashtra, threatened to go for hunger strike demanding the lighter school bags. They had convened a press conference to express their rights' violation which harshly impacts their childhood social life and creates serious issues viz a viz their mental as well as physical wellbeing.
“We carry a minimum of 16 books for 8 subjects daily and sometimes their number increases to 18 or 20, depending upon the subjects for which classes would be held for the day. Our school bags weigh between 5 and 7 kg and its exhausting to carry them to our classroom located on the third floor,”the boys, aged around 12 years, had told the reporters there (24 August 2016, The Hindu).
The concerns talked about by the children are substantiated by all educationists, sociologists, child psychologists and physiologists. They stress in unison that there is an urgent need to focus on the schooling generation because there is scientific evidence that musculoskeletal pain in childhood mostly caused by the weight of bags beyond carrying capacity continues into adulthood.
Their mental make-up is disturbed, their childhood is lost and we force them to act as adults. This is abnormal.
The children are generally lost in books and notebooks without being provided with opportunities to learn from the physical and social environment which is otherwise a potential source of knowledge for a child to groom into a balanced and integrated personality ahead.
At least three notebooks on an average are attached to each subject. To me, this is disaster not knowledge explosion as some may put it like.
The Human Resource Development Institutions from top to the bottom level extend their routine responses in lieu of the significant issue of heavy school bags only when they are forced to rethink over school bag policy.
Otherwise, they don't have their own philosophy to put in place to protect the children from sweet exploitation.
Same is true to the most academic and research departments and institutions in relation to other social important issues too. They are indulged in discussing theories and thoughts of which most of them are obsolete and irrelevant in the present day context. The applied aspect of the subjects being taught in higher level institutions is almost invisible.
It is they, who are supposed to identify the issues the society is grappling with and they have to come up with recommendations and remedies to the problems after they empirically understand them.
Why can't they develop the strategies for bag weight reduction and introduce a model healthy school bags? It is not impossible if the educationists, paediatricians, community physicians and sociologists pool their researches and approaches to demonstrate their social commitment and concern towards the innocent victims of "modern education" by none else than their own parents, teachers, educators and society.