Over 35 percent of Sri Lanka’s student population are likely to be suffering from backache, joint pain and neck pain and other multiple complications arising out of mismatched ergonomics in classroom environments, a recent research carried out by the Expert Committee on Ergonomics of the Sri Lanka Medical Association has revealed.

Chairperson of the said Committee and Consultant Community Physician, Dr. Kapila Jayaratne said the complications included musculo-skeletal pain, fatigue, psychological disturbances and scoliosis.

For the purposes of the study, a sample of 1,607 students was taken from the Gampaha District and this is representative of the entire country.  There are approximately 4.8 million schoolchildren in the nation. Out of this, it can be assumed based on the conclusions of the said study that 35% of the schoolchildren in Sri Lanka suffer from the aforementioned complications. Presently, efforts are being made to look at providing desks and chairs in accordance with the grade in which the student is studying in.

The only study conducted into the matter also found that children were easily tired at the end of the day, and while many were faced with psychological issues, still others were afflicted by possible scoliosis (abnormal lateral curvature of the spine). The seating arrangements in relation to the position of the blackboard are not healthy and more than 55% of the children carry unhealthy schoolbags, the study observed.

The research also revealed that more than 80% of the desks and chairs were not compatible with the body dimensions of the users.

“The healthy schoolbag campaign will be relaunched in collaboration with the Ministry of Educational Services. Investing in the childhood by providing a healthy and safe environment in the classroom will result in a productive generation,” he explained.

He added that the said research conducted on the healthy nature of the classroom environment had revealed that many of the ergonomic factors were not up to the standards and had caused negative impacts on the health of the children.

Ensuring an environment compatible with body dimensions and the physical and psychological requirements of humans is dealt by ergonomics.

He said that there were several ergonomic factors like proper lighting, ventilation, personal space, seating arrangements, furniture and schoolbags, which played a role in the student’s performance in education activities.

“If these factors are not matched with the children, their physical and/or psychological requirements, their level of activity may not be optimal during the hours spent inside classrooms,” he noted, “Limitations are in force restricting children from changing their postures. Many of the adults presented to Out-Patient Departments or general practitioners suffer from musculo-skeletal pain. This reflects that a majority of the country’s productive population suffers from aches and pains either silently or actively,” he said.