THE image of young children lugging heavy school bags is a common one across Pakistan. From elite private schools to government schools, nearly all educational institutions in this country seem to insist that youngsters carry heavy burdens. However, as medical specialists have pointed out, heavy school bags are taking a major toll on children’s health. The deputy medical superintendent at Karachi’s Abbasi Shaheed Hospital recently wrote a letter to school principals stating that weighty bags can cause neck, back and shoulder pain in children. The doctor added that many young patients had complained of ailments such as stiff neck and shoulder pain. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has taken a positive step in this regard by calling for the formation of a working group to look into the matter of heavy school bags and the effects this has on children’s health.
Indeed, in this day and age, when nearly everything has ‘gone digital’ there need to be out-of-the-box solutions to lessen children’s load. Many elite private schools already send homework through email and apps, yet still make children carry a heavy load of books on their backs. Perhaps more digital solutions and a sensible schedule for carrying only required books can address the problem. Lockers may also be helpful. Public schools — lacking the advanced technologies of their more well-resourced private counterparts — must also be helped by the state to introduce classroom technologies that can reduce the load in children’s backpacks, and prevent the need to carry heavy textbooks. Learning should be an exercise that engages students; youngsters should not have to dread the prospect of carrying heavy bags to school every day. Initiatives such as the one taken by the KP administration should be replicated by other provinces as well. Indeed, with the involvement of educators, medical professionals and the government, it is hoped that a solution can be reached that reduces the weight of school bags and ensures a healthy future for the coming generations.
Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2018