Concerned over the health of children lugging heavy bags to school every day, child rights activists and academics have decided to move the High Court to bring in a law to tackle the menace.
Before knocking on the doors of the court, as a first step, they plan to convince Minister of State for Primary and Secondary Education Kimmane Ratnakar on the need for a law to regulate the weight of school bags.
A consultative meeting of experts convened by the People’s Legal Forum and presided over by former Vice-Chancellor of Kuvempu University P. Venkataramaiah in Mysore on Sunday has favoured a legislation on the lines of the Children School Bags (Limitation on Weight) Bill 2006, which was introduced in the Rajya Sabha, but was later shelved.
The meeting also resolved to approach the court with a public interest litigation petition if the government does not respond.
A recent study on weight of school bags showed the average weight of a bag to be around 8 kg. The study, conducted by Pratham Mysore, an NGO working in the area of education, and A.J. Stationery, covered about 3,000 students in and around Mysore city, attending government and private schools across State, CBSE and ICSE syllabi. The study covered students from Class V to X, said Viren Ranjan, who was associated with the exercise.
Though they came across instances of school bags weighing 4 kg, particularly on Saturdays, Mr. Viren said the weight up to 11.5 kg in certain cases.
While parents blame teachers for the increasing weight, school managements feel students tend to carry most of the books, and parents should ensure that books are sent as per the timetable.
Meanwhile, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) had issued a circular to reduce the load of the bags by revising the timetable, if need be. The Kendriya Vidyalaya Sanghtan, in the academic year 2009 -2010, had set an upper limit for carrying the bag.
As per the guidelines, the school bag should not weigh more than 2 kg for students in classes 1 and 2, less than 3 kg for classes 3 and 4. Students between classes 5 and 8 should not carry bags that are more than 4 kg. The upper limit for classes 9 to 12 is set at 6 kg. However, J. Anantha Padamanabhan, principal, Kendriya Vidalaya, M.G. Railway Colony, Bangalore, conceded that these guidelines were not “religiously” followed.
The 1993 report ‘Learning without burden’, submitted by the Yash Pal Committee appointed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development stated that young children should not be compelled to carry heavy bags to schools.