Minister for Education and Employment Owen Bonnici launched the guidelines on the weight and carriage of schoolbags. These guidelines are currently under consultation, a process which is open until the end of April 2020.
“One of the budgetary measures for 2020 looks at the weight and carriage of schoolbags, an issue which has been present for the past 20 years and should definitely be addressed,” said Minister Owen Bonnici during the launch. “It is vital that we ensure that our students are well taken care of, and through the publication of these guidelines we are continuing towards a holistic roadmap which targets the wellbeing of our students. Excessive weight of schoolbags can have a negative impact on children’s dispositions and health, and it is for these reasons that the Directorate for Educational Services has drawn up guidelines for schools, learners and parents to remedy the issue,” Minister Dr Owen Bonnici continued.
Research carried out by the Malta Association of Physiotherapists in collaboration with Mater Dei’s Paediatrics Department and the Ministry for Education and Employment has indicated that the majority of students from the representative sample who took part in this study shows that the weight they carry is more than what is recommended.
The study, carried out among students aged 8 to 13 years, indicated that over 70% of the subjects had a schoolbag that exceeded the recommended 10% bag weight to body weight.
Subsequent studies carried out by the Directorate for Educational Services within the Ministry for Education and Employment have indicated that the causes of heavy schoolbags are, in the main, attributed to the carriage of textbooks followed by that of files and water bottles, and that is why a programme involving the installtion of drinking water fountains and lockers within state schools has been drawn up.
The guidelines published are intended to create further awareness of the issue in question and, more importantly, to provide concrete indications as to how the issue can be dealt with. Schools and educators are encouraged to take on board the proposals indicated in the guidelines.
The guidelines are split in 3 sections, one for the schools, one for the students of primary and secondary schools, and another for their parents.
Schools are encouraged to use timetables and try and have lessons in rooms which are near if the school’s layout permits. It is being recommended that learners carry loose sheets in plastic sheets and be taught how to manage them well, instead of bringing files. Teachers are encouraged to avoid clipping together materials for a whole year and to make use of digital technology. Lockers can help reduce schoolbag weight, as well as drinking water fountains, if installed in places which can be easily supervised. Schools are encouraged to form policies on the issue in question.
Students are encouraged to avoid taking books to school which do not form part of the timetable and to put tablet in the case provided and not in their school bag. The guidelines also advise students on how to pack their bag, with placing heavier items closer to the back, and to not carry unnecessary items.
Parents are encouraged to avoid bulky lunch cases, to check their child’s timetable so that they don’t take unnecessary items and to look for secondhand textbooks or books which have been previously bought by relatives to keep them at home, so that students would be able to keep a copy in class. They are also encouraged to purchase well-designed backpacks and to help in correcting their child’s lifting technique.
The guidelines can be viewed on: https://education.gov.mt/en/Pages/Guidelines-Weight-Schoolbags.aspx
Feedback on the guidelines is to be sent on firstname.lastname@example.org