Choose the correct schoolbag for your child’s health

Choose the correct schoolbag for your child’s health

Estimates are that as many as 8 out of every 10 school children in South Africa suffer with back, neck or shoulder pain related to their schoolbags. While the incorrect bag can lead to distortion of the spine’s natural curve and rounded shoulders, medical professionals add that carrying the incorrect bag could even lead to under-achievement, restlessness and depression.

Choose the correct schoolbag; it’s vital for your child’s wellbeing.

Ten guidelines for choosing the right school bag

  1. Backpacks are the best choice as it allows for the weight of the bag to be distributed evenly across the shoulders and body.
  2. The backpack should not sit more than 10 centimetres below the child’s waistline – anything lower increases the load on the shoulders and will cause the child to lean.
  3. Involve the child in choosing the bag. If they like it, they are more likely to use it properly and take better care of it.
  4. Bigger isn’t always better. Ensure the backpack is appropriate for the child’s size.
  5. The weight of the backpack when packed should be no more than about 10% of the child’s bodyweight.
  6. Ensure the rear of the backpack is padded for the child’s comfort.
  7. Backpacks that have compartments, padded straps and hip straps are best as it helps with the even distribution of the weight of the bag.
  8. Shoulders straps should be adjustable so the backpack can be fitted to the child’s body. Wide, padded shoulders straps are more comfortable.
  9. Compartments in a backpack allows for items to be positioned more effectively. Heavier items should be packed closest to the spine while bulky or pointy items should be packed away from the body for comfort.
  10. Let the child clean out the bag regularly so they do not end up lugging around unnecessary items.

Alternative options

CADII, the “revolutionary school in a box”, is the latest and most fashionable alternative to the back pack type schoolbag of the past. It looks like a suitcase on wheels, but is more sturdy − the frame being manufactured from high quality polypropylene. Strong polyurethane wheels that run on two bearings make less noise than a grocery trolley in the supermarket. It has various storage compartments, is water-proof and can be used as a chair or desk when waiting for transport. The manufacturers recently replaced the old china handle with a new handle made from PC/ABS, the strongest polypropylene available. It is all the rage and comes in all the colours of the rainbow for both boys and girls. Despite all the hype, the CADII helps alleviate spinal strain and in so doing helps prevent future back ailments. It is made for pulling but can be lifted with the help of a fixed polypropylene handle mounted on the casing. Parents can contact the manufacturers at

Another recent, very innovative, alternative to the “old” school bag comes from two young South African entrepreneurs Rea Ngwane (22) and Thato Kgatlhanye (21), who developed and successfully launched a community-driven business that produces “repurpose” schoolbags. Designed for schoolchildren from underprivileged communities, the bags are made entirely from recycled plastic with solar panels embedded in them. The solar panels charge a lantern during the child’s walk to school and provide a light for doing homework for at least 12 hours, at night. Isn’t that neat?



Backpack safety. Retrieved from:
CADII storage systems: a replacement for school bags. 2014. Retrieved from:
Singh, P. 2014. Solar schoolbag lights up homework for rural kids. Retrieved from:


Revised by M van Os