By Amira Farhoud

Schoolchildren in Palestine face a health challenge that one would not expect: extreme back pain and scoliosis from carrying very heavy books bags as they walk to and from school. It is common in Palestine to see a six-year-old student carrying a five-kilo bag on his small back and heading all the way from his house to school.

To talk about this important subject and its impact on our students, Bethlehem Bible College Media Center produced a special episode for its talk show “New Vision”.  The program hosted specialists to discuss the damage that heavy school bags have on children’s health and to help parents find alternative solutions to reduce the long-term effect on their children.  The main goal of the program was to influence the decision-makers in the Ministry of Education to seek a solution to this problem.

The Problem

For a small child, the allowable weight of a school bag to be carried on her back is not more than 10-15% of the child’s body weight. This means if the student weighs thirty kilos, for example, her school bag should not weigh more than three kilos. The problem, according to the physiotherapist we hosted, is that 50% of students carry considerably more weight than the accepted allowance. It has been a consistent complaint among parents and students that the average school bag is too heavy to be carried.  Children are suffering. The physiotherapist added that, in addition to neck, shoulder and back aches, in the long term this problem can cause Scoliosis, a disease of the spine.

Another guest on the talk show was a school teacher. She said that in other factors also contribute to this problem, including the fact that the students carry their bags in a wrong way and put additional and unnecessary items into their school bags. Another contributing factor is the unhealthy class desks students sit at for eight hours a day.

The solution

Talking about the problem is half the solution, as one of the specialists stated. He added that, without a doubt, there is a big problem with the Palestinian curriculum, and that there isn’t a magical solution for such an issue. But when trying to think of a way out, he insisted on the importance of leaders—such as the school principal and teachers—in being an active part when it comes to making decisions. The most significant individuals are the parents, he continued, as they are the ones who live with the students and see them travelling to and from school. Parents should check their children’s bags daily, especially the younger ones, because they sometimes carry unnecessary books and needless things with them to school.

Bethlehem Bible College is known for its role in having an impact on society, and we try to do that in many ways, particularly through the Media Center. We are thankful to God that we have the opportunity to reach as far as the Middle East and Europe through our talk show “New Vision.”