Schoolchildren under the age of 16 face the risk of developing irreversible back deformities if they carry heavy bags, a study has revealed.
Experts warn that heavy backpacks can interfere with the spine because such children have not undergone full physical development.
Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology Health Promotion and Sports Science students and scholars conducted the study.
It recommends that children should not carry bags that are more than 15 per cent of their body weight.
The study was conducted between April and June in 12 public primary schools in Kakamega county and involved 418 pupils.
Researcher Peter Bukhala said backpack weight, type of bag and distance travelled determine the levels of damage.
The study found that half of all public primary school pupils suffer back pain by the age of 14.
Bukhala warned that cases of spinal abnormalities in pupils, including disfiguring curvatures, are on the rise.
“Parents should be careful because backpacks can affect their children because they are still in the growth process, and even worse, the deformity could be permanent,” he said.
The varsity don called for a review of the weights the pupils carry on their backs to school to ensure the right size and weight.
Bukhala emphasised the need to take children for regular checkups to ensure complications are dealt with early.
He said the damage may not be noticed until it reaches an advanced stage.
“If parents are not careful, some of these small problems can turn into a big problem, which, otherwise, could have been contained at an early stage,” Bukhala said.
He blamed the rise of back problems among pupils on schools inability to have adequate desk space for pupils to store heavy books.
This prompts them to carry all their books back home.
“Teachers exacerbate the problem by forcing the pupils to carry firewood, water and cow dung to school. They reach school tired and do not concentrate in class. This leads to poor results in exams,” Bukhala added.
Source: The Star