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Sharmili Mallick

Bhubaneswar: Even as the Central government last year issued directives to reduce the weight of school bags, many children in several schools across Odisha are still forced to carry heavier bags.

Recently, a report submitted by the District Project Coordinator (DPC) of Khurda claimed that almost all the private schools in the district have been found flouting the school bag weight norms laid down by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).

Following the directions of the Orissa High Court on allegations leveled by the Abhibhabaka Mahasangha(guardians association); the district administration had formed squads and conducted inspections in various government and private schools. However, the report said that barring a few schools, students in almost all the schools of the district were found carrying heavier bags.

The inspection committee has advised the School and Mass Education Department to take stringent action against the concerned schools.

However, the authorities of the schools found violating the guidelines said that awareness regarding the norms should be created among the parents.

"More counseling of parents is required in this regard. Besides, the teachers should plan & not assign homework and reduce the number of books that students carry to school. We will try to overcome the issues on our side," said the Chairman of BJEM School, Sandhya Jena.

On the other hand, the Abhibhabaka Mahasangha has raised doubts on the report submitted by the inspection team. "There were specific orders to conduct surprise checking in schools, but the same was not done by the concerned officials. The report prepared by us is appropriate and we will submit it to the HC and the government on Monday," said president of the association, Basudev Bhatt.

"The district Collectors will be directed to intensify inspections so that the norms on weight of school bags are followed," said School and Mass Education Minister Samir Ranjan Dash.

However, educationists are of the view that only forming squads is not enough, awareness has to be created to ensure rules are followed.

As per the NCPCR guidelines, the maximum weight of the school bag for the students of Classes I and II should not exceed 1.5 kg while the weight of the bags of students from Classes III to V should not be more than three kg. Similarly, the school bag weight for students in Classes VI and VII should not be more than four kg, for Classes VIII and IX 4.5 kg and for Class X, it should not exceed five kg.

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