GUEST COLUMNIST- Heavy school bags: A bane for students impacting their health

Monday October 21 2019

Pupils of primary school in Dar es Salaam walk back home, PHOTO | FILE

Nowadays, it’s really hard to understand what exactly is inside a student’s or pupil’s school bag. It is as if a student is going for a mountain climb or tour. Back in the days, students carried their books in ‘Sports’ (a simple small bag) or ‘Pundamilia’ a plastic bag as an alternative. Only few of the students were seen with school bags contrary to today where a school bag is a common item.

Well, I’m not against school bags, in fact, they are very useful. They help to keep the books, laptops and other stationaries in a good condition. But my concern is on the size of the school bag and the weight carried by our students/pupils.

The general rule suggests that the weight of the backpack should not exceed ten per cent of the weight of the one who is carrying it. That is if a student weighs 55kgs then 5.5kgs should be the maximum weight of the school bag on his/her back.

Unstable school timetables, lack of proper guidance from teachers as well as parents to students/pupils on how to select books for a particular day and theft cases among students themselves might be the reasons for why our students/pupils exceed the suggested weight as we have been seeing them around.

Size of the school bag might as well influence the weight to be carried since some of the students want to see their school bags fully packed, so the larger the school bag the more the weight that will be carried.

Health impact


Though easily overlooked, the fact is, carrying an overweight school bag has negative impacts on the health status of a student/pupil. On the long run, which involves lots of years of studying, carrying a heavy school bag is like an unseen punishment.

Students/pupils who carry heavy school bags may distort the natural curves of the middle and lower backs as they are forced to bend forward so as to counteract the effects of the heavy backpacks which are pulling them behind. The process of competing against their heavy backpack reduces their body balance and makes it easier for them to fall.

There is a chance of causing muscle strain and irritation to the spine, joints and the ribcage since all these body parts are striving to carry the heavy load placed on them.

The outcome here is the development of shoulder, neck and back pain.

Sometimes, a pupil may carry the backpack by using one strap as part of giving break to one shoulder, this may end up leaning to one side so as to offset the extra weight and as the result one might develop pain on the back as well. If the straps are a bit narrower, they may lead to muscle fatigue and perhaps nerve damage due to high pressure induced by the narrow straps.

Tips to combat this

Before purchasing a backpack, parent, guardian or student must consider the size of the school bag and the size of the straps (the wider the straps the better).

A well-organised school timetable, which must be adhered by both teachers and students so that only the books and other materials which are needed for that particular day are carried.

Students must be reminded to carry their backpacks by using both straps so as to provide the evenly distribution of backpack’s weight all around the back.

Also involve the use of lockers in school if available so as to avoid unnecessary movement of materials around, in case of other materials like sports’ gears then an extra small bag can be used to keep them and a student/pupil may carry it on the hand whenever they are needed.

Studying is an endless opportunity for everyone and backpack being an inevitable material to enhance smooth learning, then knowing the proper ways to use it can help prevent the possibility of having chronic back pain in the future.