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How I reduced the weight of my children's school bags

By Elson T. Elizaga. Published Sept. 9, 2015. Updated Aug. 14, 2018. Updated October 7, 2023.


My wife and I have two kids in grade school and they used to bring trolley bags weighing seven kilos each. But I found a way to cut the load by half.

Before I describe the technique, let me state that for three years my wife and I did not see any problem at all with the weight because the wheels of the trolley bags made the load seem light.

But in 2015, our eldest child moved to grade three, and his classroom was on the second floor of the school. To reach the room, he had to pull his monstrous trolley bag loaded with textbooks, notebooks and a bottle of water up two flights of stairs.

I decided my son must stop suffering from this ordeal. So, I lifted the trolley bag for him every day.

Eventually, I came up with an idea. I went to Mindanao Editorial and Printing Services (MEPS) and asked the manager to split the textbooks. If a textbook contained 200 pages, I had it split somewhere in the middle. The middle did not have to be between pages 100 and 101, but between two chapters.

At home, I also split the 80-leaf notebooks by detaching the pages, and reassembling the remaining pages using a long stapler. The following year, I stopped splitting notebooks and bought 40-leaf notebooks instead.

What was the result? The textbook weight, originally two kilos, was reduced to one. The one-kilo notebooks became half. Now my kids don't need the heavy 3,000-peso trolley bags. They're using small, light 900-peso backpacks made by Simon Designs. Fully loaded with school materials, including a bottle of water, each backpack now weighs only two kilos.

INSTRUCTION: Put the mouse cursor over and outside the photo to see the effect of different bag weights. If using cellphone, tap photo and tap space outside the photo.

Three kilos is fine for my son, but a 4.8-kilo bag affects his posture. He leans forward to compensate for the weight. US chiropractors say “students should carry no more than 10% of their body weight in a backpack.”

Backpack shown in the photo is too big. Several online sources say the bottom of the bag should not be 4 inches below the waistline.

Click Huffington Post to see an excellent illustration of the correct backpack size.

What a relief. I used to lift the trolley bags and put them inside the car, drive the kids to school, open the back door of the car, lift the trolley bags again, tell the kids to pull them to their classroom before I carry one bag to the second floor. But now the kids bring the backpacks themselves. No more trolley bags. They get in and out of the car and run to their classrooms without my help.

There was a small problem, though, during the splitting of the textbooks. The first half became deprived of a back cover and the second half lacked a front cover. But this condition was easily solved. The printing press simply had the original cover photocopied in black-and-white.

Textbook split in two. The first half has a full-colored cover. The second half has a black-and-white cover. This is my son Diego's science textbook that I have split, resulting in two volumes.

Later I realized another benefit from splitting the textbooks. Usually, an entire textbook go through wear-and-tear because of regular use. But if it is split, only the first part, the one used in school, initially degrades. The second remains new because it is kept in a locker at home, until our kids need them.

My only concern is that, as a friend said, I might be accused of copyright infringement because I have photocopied the covers. I hope the publishers will use the idea instead, and produce split textbooks in their own printing press. I also hope the secretary of the Department of Education, Leonor Magtolis Briones, finds this article, and consider requiring publishers to split their textbooks.

Why am I interested in the weight of school bags? Because years ago, I had a slipped disc and couldn’t walk for a month. Also, pediatricians and chiropractors consulted by the California State Board of Education (SBE) “recommended that students not carry more than fifteen percent of their body weight in a backpack, or risk negative health impacts.” Some doctors even say not more than ten percent.

Someone told me splitting books is expensive. It's actually cheaper than buying a trolley bag. And cheaper still if we're thinking about our kids’ health and future. In the US, thousands of students seek treatment for bone and muscle injury caused by carrying heavy school bags.

In India, a four-year-old nursery student named Sarika Singh died after falling from the fourth floor of a building. The Mumbai Mirror reported "She lost her balance because of her heavy school bag ...."

A friend also told me a grade six student named Melanie developed spinal injury because of prolonged carrying of heavy school bag. Melanie became bedridden in 2013. She was a student of Pedro Oloy N. Roa Elementary School in barangay Calaanan, Cagayan de Oro. End



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