Acting on the allegations, the Orissa high court on Monday sought from the state government a reply on steps being taken to ensure implementation of the guidelines notified on March 8. On March 11, the state government had filed an affidavit along with the notification prescribing the guidelines in response to a PIL petition on the problem of burden of heavy school bags on young schoolchildren and the fallout on their health due to it.
But when the case came up on Monday, advocate-petitioner Kanhayalal Sharma filed a reply by way of an affidavit, alleging that schools have not even implemented it for the academic year 2019-20 which is now continuing. In his affidavit, Sharma alleged that the schools have followed their age-old practice of selling multiple books on multiple subjects many of which are not required to be taught to the students according to the said notification and guidelines. As a result, the tender students of the ICSE and CBSC schools continue to suffer by carrying heavy school bags. Citing the case of book list of ICSE schools in Cuttack, Sharma stated in his affidavit that an ICSE School has prescribed 19 books for Class -II and 11 thick copies. The books include five books for English, two books for mathematics, two each for Hindi and Odia, one each for science, GK, moral science, art, craft and even a dictionary.
Another ICSE school has prescribed 37 books and copies for Class-V and most of the copies are of 128 pages each. Yet another ICSE school has prescribed for Class-IV 14 books and 26 number of copies. Of these, 15 copies are of 148 pages each, Sharma said in his affidavit, adding, “This trend remains the same more or less in other ICSE schools, resulting in very heavy school bags.”
In his affidavit, Sharma also claimed, “Many parents of ICSE schools in Cuttack have informed me in April that the school bags of their children, even in Class- V weighs about 10 kg as against the prescribed 2-3 kg and some of the kids have to carry them all the way up to the second floor classrooms, climbing more than 50 steps.”
Taking into consideration the petitioner’s reply, the division bench of Chief Justice K S Jhaveri and Justice K R Mohapatra posted the matter to May 13 for hearing along with the state government’s response.
The March 8, 2019, notification had prescribed that the weight of the school bag with textbooks and notebooks according to guidelines had been calculated at not exceeding 1.5 kg with regard to Class I and II, 2 to 3 kg (Class III to V), 4 kg (VI to VII), 4.5 kg ( Class VIII to IX) and 5 kg (Class X).