Many youngsters are carrying as much as 20 per cent of their weight to and from school, and some up to 25 per cent.
Research has shown that half of all children suffer back pain by age 14, and doctors are reporting a rise in cases of spinal abnormalities in pupils, including disfiguring curvatures known as scoliosis.
Overloaded school bags that are up to double the size of those carried ten years ago are contributing to the surge, it is feared.
In Ghana, school children habitually carry bags filled with heavy books and packed lunches, which may weigh as much as half a bucket of water.
However, health expert and aerobics instructor, Stephen Acheampong, told Weekend Today in an interview that children risk long-term and eventually permanent damage, if they repeatedly carry more than 15 per cent of their body weight over their shoulders.
According to him, many youngsters are carrying as much as 20 per cent of their weight to and from school, and some up to 25 per cent.
He therefore, advocated for a review of the number of books school children carried on their backs each day.
In the view of Mr. Acheampong, lots of Ghanaian school children were carrying serious back pains.
“If children are getting back pains so young then there is the potential they will have it for the next 70 to 80 years, which will then lead to an enormous physical and emotional cost,” he said.
He explained that at their ages most of the children’s skeletons are still growing so carrying heavy bags can cause lasting damage.
“Many are carrying their bags on one shoulder or are increasingly carrying them on the crook of their elbow, so are placing a great strain on the spine. A lot of the bags being used are bulky sports bags which are very heavy.”
Headmaster of Jesus Generation Academy at Awoshie, a suburb of Accra, described the issue of backpacks as a big problem facing most children in the country.
According to him, most of the children come to school very tired every morning because of the heavy load and sometimes put their heads on the desk for several minutes before embarking on their duties.
He said the problems were becoming an increasing issue among school children, but put the blame partly on the fact that most schools in the country no longer have adequate desk space for pupils to store heavy books.
“We need to have an urgent overview of this issue,” he told Weekend Today.
The headmaster therefore, urged parents to keep an eye on children’s backpacks and insist that children pack their bags only with what they need for the next day and ensure that they are worn on both shoulders.”