AN important new law is waiting to be approved by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa cabinet. Drafted by the education department, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa School Bags Act, 2019, will make it compulsory for all educational institutions across the province to ensure schoolbags carried by children do not weigh more than 15pc of the student’s weight. The figure is in accordance with international research, though some researchers have suggested that the weight of the schoolbags should be as low as 10pc of a child’s bodyweight. As directed by the Peshawar High Court, the law must be passed and put into effect by both the government and private institutions before the new school year begins in 2020. Under the law, all schools must provide lockers and cupboards to students up till the 10th grade, while teachers will also have to tell the students in advance what books and course work they have to bring. Failure to comply with the law will result in heavy fines. If passed, the law will undoubtedly ease some of the burden and stress placed on students — which is in addition to their routine workload and homework — and can be replicated in the other provinces.
In the absence of proper facilities or arrangements, children have no choice but to carry their heavy learning material with them to school. Many have to walk long distances to reach their schools, and the strain on their young, still developing bodies — particularly the neck, back and shoulders — is considerable and entirely unnecessary. According to medical experts, heavy schoolbags lead to damage to the spine and muscles, which can go on to have a negative impact on a child’s cognitive and learning abilities. There is already a high dropout rate of students from school, and one of the reasons often cited by children is the exhaustion and sense of fatigue they feel. It is unfair for adults to make the simple pursuit of education so burdensome for the young.
Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2019