Water fountains to be installed in every state school as part of heavy bag respite

The government announced that it will be publishing guidelines on how to help schoolchildren, educators and parents better pack the students’ bags  

The government has announced plans to install water fountains in every State school as part of a wider plan to limit schoolbag weight in Primary and Secondary schools.

Education permanent secretary Frank Fabri explained that eight water fountains in different schools will be installed in the coming weeks and that by 2021, most infrastructure would be in place to introduce them in all schools.

“In every child’s schoolbag, you are likely to find water bottles that will add to a schoolbag’s weight. In some cases, children bring two litre bottles to school. The water fountains will prevent this from happening and, at least, children can just start bringing an empty bottle,” Fabri said.

At a press conference at the education ministry, the government announced that it would publish guidelines to help schoolchildren, educators and parents better pack the students’ bags.

Ray Camilleri, college principal at the State education directorate, said that the plans would be published for consultation, and feedback through the website would help the government issue the guidelines at a final stage.

“We are also encouraging the use of ebooks instead of physical books, which the children could access on their tablets. Some shelving and lockers are already available at some State schools but we intend to introduce lockers in every school,” Camilleri said.

He added that a 2016 report published by the Physiotherapists Association had found that 30% of students exhibited back pain. 55% of students blamed their schoolbag.

In a separate study in 2017, most bags were found to be exceeding 5kg in weight, higher than 10% of the carriers’ body weight. This can cause chronic low-intensity back pain and back problems at a later stage in life.

“When it comes to State schools, heads of school have responsibilities but it’s impossible for this to work if either one of stakeholders does not fulfil his or her role. Parents must follow the guidelines to help children pack their bags too and educators must provide a clear timetable so that children don’t pack what they don’t need,” Camilleri said.

Education Minister Owen Bonnici said that the issue of heavy bags had been a perennial one that has been a point of discussion for many years.

“Every parent at some point remarked that their children’s bags are too heavy. These guidelines aim to make a difference in the quality of life of children. After we receive feedback from all parties, we will publish the full guidelines,” he said.