FORMER actor and senator Lito Lapid finished high school but didn’t go to college. He doesn’t speak English well. So, he was often ridiculed, usually by those privileged to have higher education.
Ironically, it was Lapid and not his critics who proposed ideas to protect the health and education of students. Lapid filed a Senate bill that would provide desks designed for the left-handed. (You might say “Haha, yeah right” but you can find many online articles supporting this concept.)
Lapid also introduced a bill in 2010 about school bags. It was similar to a bill filed by Pampanga 1st district Rep. Carmelo Lazatin. Lazatin’s House Bill 6644 and Lapid’s Senate Bill 2179 sought to limit the load of school bags to 15 percent of the student’s weight. Why? Because Lapid and Lazatin discovered, from reading research reports, that bags this heavy could cause skeletal and muscle problems.
Lazatin’s reference was a 1988 study conducted by the Hong Kong Society for Child Health Development. He also mentioned a research in Scandinavia, where students carried school bags 40 percent heavier than their body weight.
Lapid cited a study made by the Department of Occupational Therapy at the University of the Free State, South Africa. The finding was reported by Paula Barnard in Mail & Guardian on March 2007: “ … The outcome of a heavy school bag is lower back pain, poor posture, spinal deformity over time and back problems in adulthood.”
Nowadays, this medical fact is well known. It’s all over the internet. And many websites not only describe the problem but offer solutions as well. WebMD, Huffington Post, and the New York Times are just a few.
What’s a good backpack? How do you decrease the load of school bags? See YouTube. Check also http://booksplits.ie. Google “breaking heavy textbooks into smaller books” and “elson elizaga school bags”. (In 2014, a four-year old nursery pupil in India died after falling from a fourth floor of a building because of her heavy school bag.)
But seven years ago when Lazatin and Lapid presented their bills, they were not taken seriously, especially Lapid. Philippine Inquirer editorial in Oct. 2011 partly stated: “The measures Lapid has filed can sometimes verge on the bizarre. Among the most unusual he has sponsored are: a bill that seeks to give left-handed Filipinos the same opportunities as right-handed Filipinos; another sets a limit on the weight of the school bags borne by Filipino schoolchildren ….” (Reacting to this editorial, however, Victor A. Villanueva, former faculty member of the College of Education of the University of the Philippines, described Lapid’s bill as “insightful, sensitive”.)
The Professional Heckler also ridiculed Lapid’s bill: “Tanong ng bayan kay Ginoong Lapid: Senador ka ba o pangulo ng PTA?”
But the response that stopped Lapid’s bill came from Education Secretary Armin Luistro, who has a doctorate degree in educational management. Excerpt from the PDI report in 2010: “Luistro told reporters earlier that he found Lapid’s Senate Bill No. 2179 too trivial to require enactment into law. Luistro said the problem of overloading schoolbags could easily be addressed by the school principal and the parents themselves. ‘If we pass too many laws, nobody will believe in our laws anymore. I think a simple news item on this topic is enough,’ Luistro said with a mocking laughter.”
Luistro’s reaction differs greatly from that of the California State Board of Education (SBE).
In 2002, a mother in California angrily organized a protest because every day her son was carrying 43 pounds [19 kilos] of schoolbooks in a bicycle. A member of the California State Assembly, Rod Pacheco, then filed a bill requiring the SBE to find solutions. “The State Board of Education is the K-12 policy-making body for academic standards, curriculum, instructional materials, assessments and accountability.”
In response to the bill, SBE conducted research and consulted stakeholders in 2003 until 2007. Among the adopted recommendations was a weight standard for elementary and secondary textbooks: Grades K-4: 3 lbs; Grades 5-8: 4 lbs; Grades 9-12: 5 lbs.
SBE also required publishers to offer light versions of textbooks if they exceed a weight threshold. “These lighter weight alternatives may include, but are not limited to, split volumes, electronic editions, soft-cover editions or other alternate physical formats. “
Lazatin and Lapid, however, can find vindication today. Although their bills have not been made into laws, a group of Visayan officials have been convinced. On July 19, 2016, the provincial government of Cebu issued memorandum 387 to the Department of Education.
“DESSIMINATION OF RESOLUTION NO. 1147-2016 RE: ‘REQUESTING THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO FIND WAYS AND IMPLEMENT MEASURES THAT COULD LIGHTEN THE LOAD THAT PUPILS BEAR ON THEIR SCHOOL BAGS, TO PREVENT WHAT MEDICAL STUDIES SHOW AS HARMFUL EFFECTS OF SUCH BURDEN ON THEIR SPINES’”
Mama Belen, Myling, Clara, Jaja, and Joy: Are you reading this?
(Elson T. Elizaga is a former teacher at Xavier University. His method of reducing the weight of school bags is described in http://tinyurl.com/yaucj9wf.)