Our children are carrying heavy bags to school and back. This is despite Royal Education Council’s (REC) recommendation to the dzongkhag and thromde schools to put in place appropriate strategies to reduce the weight of bags that students carry to school.

REC’s findings were based on a survey conducted for digitisation of textbooks. It was found that the existing system requires students to carry loads weighing between 5kg and 10kg over long distances and that the practice was in contravention to the recommended load of 15 percent of a child’s body weight

Last week, at the fourth international health conference in Thimphu, the issue came to the fore again. A 2017 study by a group of doctors in the country found that 40 percent of the Class VIII students in Thimphu were carrying bags heavier than the recommended weight.

According to medical research, pain and physical discomfort resulting from carrying a heavy school bag could result in stress and lack of attentiveness in a child, affecting their learning. Fatigue, muscle strain, back pain, distortion of spines and rounding of the shoulders can occur due to heavy bag packs.

There maybe challenges on the part of schools to immediately enforce safety recommendations. A whole lot from number of subjects and textbooks to school infrastructure would have no be changed. But we can certainly implement easier and urgent interventions because backpacks are comfortable for students.   For example, encouraging students and parents to buy lightweight pack with padded back, shoulder straps, waist belt and multiple compartments can go a long way in averting many of the shot- and long-term health risks due to carrying heavy bags. School authorities could make it mandatory for students to carry lightweight bags.

In the mean time, schools must look at redesigning classroom settings and locker facilities. Student desks with lockers are also a viable option, which could save time running over to the locker room in between classes.

In the remote parts of Bhutan where students have to walk long distances to and from schools, the situation could be worse. We have the responsibility to create conducive learning environment in our schools so that our children do better to succeed.