THE problem of heavy schoolbags has been highlighted in the mass media time and again but there seems to be no practical long-term solution in sight. Rather than wait for a one-off miracle solution can we not alleviate this problem one level at a time?
For starters, let us ask ourselves as parents. Are we part contributors to the problem? Do we buy school bags for multiple purposes? One pocket for food and drink bottle, another for a change of P.E. attire, yet another for colour pencils and other art materials etc. Do we choose a school bag to satisfy our children's whims and fancies? Why do school children carry food and drinks from home? Are the school canteens unhygienic? Are the caterers uncaring and unfriendly? Is the food not up to their taste? These questions can only be answered by school heads, Parent Teacher Associations, the Health Department and the District Education Office.
It has become common practice in schools to use between two and five exercise books for some subjects. These must be carried to school every day because students are not told which book the teacher will use for the day!
It is also common practice to have two or three textbooks and at least one workbook. These too will have to be carried to school every day according to the time-table.,
On P.E. (Physical Education) days, students must bring along a change of P.E. attire, which invariably includes a track bottom, quite unsuitable for our country's hot climate. The changing rooms are the dirty wet toilets. Do we care?
One solution a few years back was to have school lockers, but it is clearly not feasible. Classes are too big. while classrooms are small. The corridors are not designed for lockers, unlike in the western countries. Very often the keys get lost and the unlucky students will have to run to the school office to get the spares. This can be very unsettling to the teachers, the office staff and the students. Books and other materials often get lost. There are many other shortcomings not to mention the financial cost of having lockers installed.
Desks with locks are another alternative, and although they do not require extra space, the other problems remain.
We propose some solutions for quick relief. The school year is coming to an end and orders for exercise books, textbooks, workbooks, etc, would be going out soon. Hence the need for proper planning now:
·The number of exercise books used could either be reduced or arrangements made to keep some in the teachers' cupboard at the end of the day.
·There could be a better selection of textbooks. If one book can cover the requirements of the syllabus it would certainly help.
·The dictionaries could be stored in the teacher's cupboard on school days. Teachers should be able to know how to manage this efficiently.
·The class time-tables must be detailed enough to show which exercise book, workbook and/or textbook will be used on a particular day. Do not give the standard excuse that students should bring all the books to school.
·On P.E. days the students could be allowed to wear the P.E. attire the whole day in place of the school uniform.
·School canteens should upgrade the quality of food and cleanliness so that students will be happy to consume food there.
Johor Consumers' Association