By Godfrey Wamalwa.
Experts have warned that school going children under the age of 16 years risk developing irreversible back deformities because of the weight of the school bags they carry.
The research was conducted by Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST) Health Promotion and Sports Science students.
Overloaded school bags that are up to double the size of those carried ten years ago are contributing to the risk, it is feared.
Dr. Peter Bukhala, a lead researcher said findings indicate that the backpack weight, type of bag and distance travelled to and from school affects the body of school child.
He said the research was carried out in 12 public primary schools within Kakamega Municipality between the months of April and June, involving 418 pupils.
Dr. Bukhala said a half of all public primary school pupils suffer back pain by the age of 14. He warned that cases of spinal abnormalities in pupils, including disfiguring curvatures were on the rise.
The varsity don called for a review of the weights the pupils carry on their backs each day to school, adding that the problem is a ‘healthcare time bomb’ that if not contained would lead to misery in later life.
He said that many of them were carrying their bags on one shoulder or are increasingly carrying them on the elbow, saying that this places great strain on the spine.
“Pupils carry bags filled with heavy books, sweaters, sports kit and packed lunches, which is a half of their total weight”, he said.
Bukhala added that children risk long term untimely permanent damage if they will continue carrying school bags that are more than 15 per cent of their body weight.
Dr. Bukhala said back problems were on the rise among school children as schools no longer have adequate desk space for pupils to store heavy books.
“Teachers exacerbate the problem by forcing the pupils to carry firewood, water and cow dung to school. They reach school when tired and do not concentrate in class which leads to poor results in exams,” he said.