Fragile walls barely hold the building up, the leaking roofs interrupt the lessons and toilets are a “luxury” that the schools can rarely afford. In some of the same schools, students sit on a thin carpet, their backs bent over their books. As the teacher dictates spellings to the class, the 5 to 6-year-olds hunch over further, trying to write in clean, crisp handwriting. This scene is not uncommon and a visit to a rural or even an urban one will confirm that a shocking number of schools in India are falling in on themselves.
Getting their eyes as close to the books as possible, the students unknowingly damage both their eyes and their backs. The young children have to endure this strain for more than six hours.
Don’t let incorrect sitting postures make our children’s lives difficult. Let them carry these lightweight, water-resistant bags to tuition classes, study tours etc. Buy your choice of a Deskit bench on The Better India Shop, here.
Add to such inevitable problems the fact that children in their formative years, easily adapt to daily habits that lead to a bad posture affecting them for life.
When Eshan Sadasivan, an alumnus of IIT-Kanpur, saw children ruining their eyes while bending over and trying to read, it moved him to design a low-cost, lightweight, portable and collapsible desk that doubles as a bag!
“In IIT-Kanpur, we had a volunteer programme to teach the underprivileged students around the campus. We would primarily teach English and Mathematics to the students who would eagerly come to class every day. Unfortunately, we did not have the infrastructure to place them in a proper class with basic amenities like a desk or a bench and so, I had to teach a group of 20-30 students who were sitting hunch-backed on the floor. It didn’t take me long to understand that this was extremely damaging to them,” Eshan tells The Better India (TBI).
After a few experiments, he finalised Deskit, a product that has changed the lives of about 1 lakh students across 16 states in India.
“The health problems are not limited to a hunchback. I wouldn’t be surprised if the children develop eyesight problems at a very young age,” elaborates Eshan.
If you remember, during school days, sitting on chairs and bending over the desks often strained our shoulders and put a kink in our backs. At times, we would even rest our heads on the desk while still writing.
If this was the case when we had wooden desks to be able to sit right, imagine what must be happening to the backs of the kids who don’t even have any desks at all.
Eye Way, an organisation that does extensive research on visual impairment, guidelines and problems in India notes, “Your body follows your eyes. To preserve proper posture, your visual target should be nearly parallel to your face and within your line of sight. Poor visual target position forces your spine to compensate by bending. This occurs when you try to sit in an erect posture to write on a flat surface.”
Ideal reading angles are at about 60°, give or take . . . Ideal writing surface angles are somewhere between 10° and 20°. This is not ideal for vision and your spine, as both your neck and back will have to bend forward somewhat . . . Ideal focus distances for reading and writing average between 15 to 25 inches from the eyes, adds the report.
Eshan could clearly understand that his students have to violate these guidelines. And the issue was not specific to the underprivileged kids that he taught in Kanpur. Over the next few years, as part of his educational and professional projects, Eshan travelled to various villages in India and saw that the problem is constant among thousands of students.
So, he started designing desks that the children themselves could carry to the school. He did this as a part of his social enterprise PROSOC Innovators—an abbreviated form of Products for Society.
The final product, Deskit, is a school bag that can be converted into a study table which opens at a comfortable height for the students to use while sitting down. This innovation solves two crucial problems. One, that it helps improve posture and prevent eyesight damage and secondly, the cost of doing this need not be borne by the schools facing fund-crunches.
“We weren’t successful with the design in the first go. We had over 40 experiments, most of which failed and taught us what to do better. We tried many combinations of wooden, metal and fabric materials before we finalised plywood for the desk, mild steel tubes for its legs and a waterproof fabric for the bag. Currently, the entire bag weighs about 1 kg but we are trying to bring the weight down even further,” the 28-year-old founder tells TBI.
Aluminium, for instance, is lighter than mild steel and could reduce the weight of the bag considerably. But, Eshan clarifies, that will raise the cost of the bag which will work against its purpose of helping underprivileged students.
Each desk-bag is priced between Rs 500 to Rs 550 and can be purchased at The Better India Shop, here.
The price depends on the size of the bag.
“We had spoken to doctors about the health issues caused due to improper posture and we consulted with them while finalising the design. It is under their guidance that we designed these desks whose heights can be adjusted,” Eshan says.
Since Deskit was made available commercially, several corporations came forward to buy them as part of their CSR, distributing the much-needed desks to rural students free of cost. As of today, about 1 lakh students have availed its benefits.
Eshan credits IIT Kanpur’s Design Programme, Start-Up Incubation and Innovation Center, and INVENT Social Incubation Program in aiding to take DESKIT to needy students.
Says the 28-year-old entrepreneur, “I have met hundreds of these students since they started using Deskit. At Prosoc, we wanted to take their feedback. The overwhelming majority of beneficiaries, as well as their teachers and parents, have one thing to say, that school has become much more enjoyable thanks to these customised desks. The young kids can now study without straining their backs too much and that has reduced the stress of school hours in an unimaginable way. And we are glad they have had such a positive outcome.”
The smallest of details can have a long-lasting impact on young children. With a simple innovation, Prosoc’s Deskit is addressing a lot of issues that affect children and that too at a very low cost! If you wish to purchase the desks, click on the following link.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)