When children go to school in the morning, the roads and streets in Dhaka take a nice look. Though most of the children and their parents have to rush due to uncertain traffic, the movement of children in uniform and school bags on their shoulders announces life on motion. Again, when schools break up and they come out, the surrounding areas turn lively despite some chaos and congestion. Nevertheless, watching the school children and their activities is something unique.
Unfortunately, the vibrant and beautiful scene is not unmixed. One of the undesirable issues is the heavy school bags small children have to carry on their shoulders. Many educationists, guardians, teachers and physicians have been expressing concern about the problem of overweight school bags. Even the High Court in 2016 ordered that primary school children must not be forced to carry schoolbags that weigh more than 10 per cent of their body weight. Nevertheless, there is little progress in this regard as both the government and the school authorities take the problem of overweight school bags lightly.
It is well established that during the stage of bone and muscle development, putting a burden on children's shoulder muscles and back will lead to a serious health hazard in the long run. Heavy bags would cause back pain, slouching back, head, neck and shoulder pain. The spine may lose its natural curve. Moreover, carrying overweight bags to and from school makes children extremely tired and they have to struggle hard to concentrate on their regular studies.
The main reason behind the overweigh bag is a compulsion to carry all the books and exercise books. Then students also need to carry water pots and tiffin boxes. It is sad to note that schools are yet to provide safe drinking water for the students. There is also no locker system in schools to store books. Why are students not allowed to use a single common exercise book, or rough khata, in the classrooms? Even sharing a textbook with two students in the class may help reduce the weight of their bags.
After the pandemic, there is an expectation that schools will redesign their teaching methods to some extent so that there will be no need to carry all the books and notebooks. In reality, the change is little and everything is almost back to square one. So, students continue to carry overweight bags. Owners and management of schools care little about the sufferings of children as they are mostly busy with their commercial gains. To most of them, it is the money that matters, nothing else. That's why even teachers of schools failed to convince them of students' long-term damage.
It is the responsibility of schools to take some innovative steps so that children can get some relief. For instance, schools may introduce a 'no bag day' in a week. Again, book sharing with classmates needs to be encouraged. Guardians also need to raise their voices jointly. A section of guardians, however, bother little about the long-term physical harm caused to children due to overweight bags as their kids are accompanied by someone to carry those. Others are used to travelling in their private cars. Thus there is no collective decision on discouraging heavy bags for children.