The Vidya Niketan School in the Chandrapur district of eastern Maharashtra set up lockers in the school premises for its students on Wednesday, so that they could keep their textbooks and other study material in them and reduce the weight of their heavy school bags.
However, the positive development did not come out of some directive from the state government or a change in the education policy or as an intervention from the school administration.
The force behind this change was a Class VII student, Rugved Raikwar.
The 12-year-old Rugved and his classmate Paritosh Dhandekar surprised all the journalists of Chandrapur when they reached the Press Club here to address the media on Monday.
The Class VII students laid bare their plight before the Chandrapur media and told them how primary and high school students are forced to carry heavy schoolbags like some luggage carrier.
“We have to carry at least 16 books everyday — eight textbooks and eight notebooks — to the school. The number reaches 20 at times due to extra classes. It’s exhausting to carry them from home to school and then to the classrooms situated on the second and third floor of the school building,” Rugved told The Hindu . The duo was left with no option but to address the press conference when their school principal ignored their letters.
“I also tried to call Education Minister Vinod Tawade but he did not speak to us. Every time, his juniors told me that the minister was busy. After we addressed the press conference, lockers have been set up in our school for all the students. Earlier, only those students who faced health issues were allowed to use lockers,” the 12-year-old added. However, within a day of the press conference, his batch-mate Paritosh backed out of the campaign.
“His parents did not want to take on the school authorities. Some people from the school administration even warned me against addressing the press conference but I told them that my fight was not with the school but with the system,” he said.
After winning the first battle of reducing the weight of schoolbags for his fellow students at Vidya Niketan, Rugved now wants to reduce the burden of heavy schoolbags for every primary and high school student in India.
“I will try to speak to the Education Minister about this and if he doesn’t do anything, I will launch an agitation taking every affected student with me. The schools charge high fees from students. Can’t they provide basic facilities like lockers, even if they cannot reduce the weight of their school bags?” he asked.