As the state education department cracked the whip on education officials, setting a two-day deadline for inspection of weight of school bags, a special inspection drive was conducted in the city on Tuesday.
In all, 118 education officials spanned across 150 schools to check the weight of school bags vis-a-vis the weight of students. In all, the officials weighed 10,293 bags — barely 261 bags conformed to norms; a whopping 832 bags were grossly overweight.
Under norms set by the education department based on directions of the Bombay High Court, the weight of a school bag should not exceed 10 per cent of a child’s body weight.
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Ramchandra Jadhav, deputy director of education (Pune), who led the drive, said in most schools, the weight of school bags was found 1.5-2 times the prescribed weight. “We noticed that students were carrying a lot of unnecessary baggage to schools like dictionary, school diary, storybooks, extra school books and workbooks, books of subjects not included in timetable, heavy tiffin boxes and water bottles, two to three different compass boxes, sport-related books, skipping ropes, skates and such things. In most schools, no lockers were available for students,” he said.
The inspection drive was led by Jadhav along with assistant directors, 14 block divisional officers, education officials from both the Pune Municipal Corporation and Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation, 24 education inspectors, 42 extension officers, amongst others. The officials carried hand-weighing scales to measure the weight of school bags and used weighing scales in schools to check the weight of children.
As the officials entered classrooms, they asked students to pack their bags just as they do when they come to school from home. Randomly, five-10 students were asked to come out with their bags. Their and the weight of bags was then checked.
Jadhav visited five schools: St Anne’s High School, Vincent High School, Dastur School, Symbiosis School and Vikhe Patil Memorial School. “We asked the students later how many of them face backache issues or pain in the neck and so on. Most of them raised their hands and said their backs or shoulders pain. One student complained that everyday his legs pain after carrying heavy bags home,” he said.
Asked if the school authorities had sent instructions on reducing the weight of school bags to parents, he said while most schools claimed to have done so, they hadn’t organised any meeting with the parent-teacher associations (PTAs). “Some schools even complained that despite reminders and random checks, parents do not comply with norms,” said Meenakshi Raut, assistant director of education.
Symbiosis School principal Leena Chaudhari said the circular had been sent to parents and even random bag checks initiated by the school. “We have taken a lot of measures to reduce the weight of bags like using thinner notebooks, keeping workbooks in school and so on…,” she said.
Meanwhile, after the inspections, a slew of instructions was issued to schools by the education department:
1. Holding an immediate meeting of all teachers, instructing them on weight of school bags
2. Holding a meeting with PTAs, issuing instructions to parents not to send extra books or other material
3. Making lockers available in school, starting e-learning facility and installing LCD projectors
4. Ensuring availability of filtered drinking water, so students do not carry water from home
5. Ensuring timetables do not have multiple subjects on a single day