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MENAFN - Khaleej Times - 30/10/2012

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(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Does your child have slouchy shoulders? Is the school bag the culprit? Khaleej Times looks into how school authorities and parents can help reduce the weight of school bags.

Seven-year-old Aarav Krishna stifles a yawn and slumps his shoulders when asked about going to school every morning. Sundays are his least favorite days and he crosses days off his school calendar till the next holiday. What Aarav enjoys least about going to school is carrying his school bag. "I don't like carrying a big bag filled with books," said Aarav. "It is the thought of lugging a heavy school bag that puts off school for Aarav," said his mother Preeti Krishna.

On a normal school day, the contents in Aarav's bag include eight textbooks and notebooks, a plastic pencil case, a lunch box, a box of colour pencils, and a water bottle. "His bag weighs almost seven kilograms. He lugs it from home to his school bus, from school bus to classroom, and back home," added Preeti.
Health Risks

On an average, a student in the UAE carries between four and 10kg of books to school every day. A preliminary study carried out in 2008 by the Gulf Medical University (GMU), Ajman, among schoolchildren from 85 schools in Ajman and Sharjah discovered that 48 out of 1,000 students were suffering from scoliosis (spine deformity) partly attributed to carrying heavy school bags on their backs. Scoliosis is an angulation (sideward bend) of the spine that usually develops during pre-adolescent years. The study was carried out among children aged between 10 and16 years. Two to five per cent of the children between these ages worldwide have scoliosis though it is more common among girls than boys. "Children tend to fling the heavy bag on one side of their shoulder instead of balancing the load. Complications occur when they do this every day," explains an orthopedic doctor also blaming the modern lifestyle for the increase in such diseases.

Dr El Gabroun, Specialist Orthopedic at the Canadian Specialist Hospital said heavy loads could lead to an imbalance of the bony structure. "This happens mainly with children with weak muscles and bones," he explained. Besides, the back, improper handling of load can also cause shoulder and muscle aches through strain and stress. "Back pain in children is unusual and medical advice should be sought immediately," added Dr El Gabroun.

Dr Ghanshyam L Gupta, Specialist Orthopedic Surgeon at Dr Moopen's PolyClinic said that no one would recommend such heavy loads for children.

"Growing children should not be burdened with such load," he said.
Ministry recommendations

With repeated requests from parents, school authorities and Ministry officials are taking additional steps to cut the weight of school bags. Experts at the Ministry of Education have recommended the weight of a school bag should be about 10 per cent of the weight of the child carrying it.

Dr Osama Al Lalla, from the Department of Nutrition and School Health, Ministry of Education, Dubai said: "Carrying school bags improperly can hurt muscles and joints and lead to pain in the back, neck and shoulders."

Based on this information we would like to emphasise that to avoid problems arising from the school bag there needs to be a concerted effort among all parties, he added.
What are schools doing?

Apart from introduction of the locker systems, several schools advise students to leave their books behind. Lalitha Suresh, Principal and CEO of GEMS Our Own Indian School, Dubai said: "In the primary section many books are kept in school and sent home only during the weekend. At the secondary level, most lessons are double periods so that students have to carry fewer number of books." She added that though the school does not have any locker systems, students have plenty of shelves in the classrooms. Schools like The Millennium School, Dubai, allows trolley bags in the school, as well. The Dubai Scholars Private School recently issued a circular to parents giving instructions only to bring books that are needed by the student.
Students speak

Shashank Sharma, a grade 10 student of St Mary's Catholic High School, Dubai, said: "The problem with our textbooks is that they are big in size and we don't have locker facilities in our school. But our teachers ask us to carry only books that are required for the day. We end up carrying more before the examination days."

Mary Desilva a grade 11 student of the same school said: "When I was in Grades 7 and 8, my bag was much heavier than now. Now, I know what I need to take to school and what I don't. So my bag has become lighter."


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