ISLAMABAD: As the summer vacation has commenced, elementary school students may find momentary respite from the heavy burden of school bags.

However, a policy that once promised lasting relief, the ‘Lighter Bag Brighter Student’ initiative, has been practically discontinued, much to the dismay of parents and children alike.

Launched in January 2022 by the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, the ‘Lighter Bag Brighter Student’ policy was initially rolled out in model colleges. Targeting students from classes one to five, the initiative aimed to address the physical and mental well-being of little souls burdened by heavy school bags. Pigeonholes (special racks) were set up in schools, allowing children to leave their textbooks at schools. Each student was provided with two sets of books – one for school and one for home. As a result, children only needed to carry a bag with two notebooks, a lunch box, and a water bottle.

Parents praised the initiative when it was launched.

“It made them feel lighter and brighter both mentally and physically,” commented Tasneem, a mother.

Parents hailed it as a unique and necessary measure that positively impacted the students’ mental and physical health. The policy aimed to prevent the negative consequences of heavy loads on the developing spines of young students, including neck, back and shoulder pain. Despite the initial success and positive feedback, the policy was gradually ended due to lack of attention during the academic session of 2023-24.

“My daughter, who is in class one, has once again started complaining about stiff necks and shoulder pain,” said Ms Hira, a concerned mother.

Abid Mahmood, another parent, said: “The school bag of my daughter often includes unnecessary material, making the bags excessively heavy. The heavy school bags, filled with books, notebooks, pencils, colours, lunch boxes and water bottles are taking a toll on my daughter’s health.”

He noted that the burden of heavy bags could lead to serious physical discomfort and long-term health issues, urging the education ministry to revive the policy.

Muqadas, another mother, said: “My son is already physically weak. It is very difficult for him to carry a heavy school bag.”

Parents have urged the ministry to reinstate the ‘Lighter Bag Brighter Student’ policy when schools reopen after the summer break. According to them, reinstating the policy will relieve their children from the physical strain of heavy school bags and promote a healthier, more enjoyable educational experience.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2024

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