THE BACKGROUND PROBLEM
During my visit to a nearby slum for helping them out with their studies, I noticed how the kids hunch-backed on the floor without the provision of a desk. I remembered how we as kids would whine about the uncomfortable wooden desks in our classrooms and here, I was looking at them writing without a desk at all. They were so eager to learn but keeping their copies on the floor while writing was evidently uncomfortable for them. They had to bend a lot and that was getting them tired. In fact, after a while, they lost concentration and started to get fidgety. Something had to be done!
The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) shows that the number of students attending schools in India is rising but sadly there has been very little improvement in infrastructure. In most rural schools, students sit on a thin carpet, or on the dusty floor itself with their backs bent over their books. In the absence of a proper writing desk, they need to hunch over further to write. This scene is not uncommon even in urban schools and it is shocking that even in a city like Delhi, more than 38,000 students in north civic body schools do not have desks to work on. In fact, apart from this, when kids study at home they need a proper desk to sit and study on. In most underprivileged homes this need is left unattended because even meeting basic needs of food, shelter are sometimes not possible.
When the kids get their eyes as close to the books in absence of a desk, they unknowingly damage both their eyes and their backs. The backs of these young children are tender and ((are thus are strained for 6-8 hours in a day (including school and home studying hours). Bad posture for prolonged hours can cause Kyphosis amongst other medically proven diseases. This condition affects the back making it look rounded and hunched over and has repercussions for life.
Eye Way, an organization that does extensive research on visual impairment, guidelines and problems in India notes:
- Your body follows your eyes. Poor visual target position forces your spine to compensate by bending.
- Ideal reading angles are at about 60°. 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 somewhat forward.
- Ideal focus distances for reading and writing average between 15 to 25 inches from the eyes, adds the report.
Because of lack of funds and other practical problems, schools struggle to provide desks to their children which unintentionally causes harm to a child’s posture. In fact, it might be a deterrent to their focus and retention.
Aaryansh Bhartiya started to work on this issue and noticed that although there were individuals who were designing desks attached to a bag that the children themselves could carry to the school to replace desks, the cost of the product at Rs 550 was still very high. This cost to be borne without sponsorship, was difficult to be borne, especially by rural children who could barely manage to have two square meals a day. he thought that something had to be worked out at a lower cost which did not need sponsorship and could be afforded even by the student himself.
Aaryansh worked on many options but either the cost or durability of the product did not work out. Finally, he zeroed down on a lap table made of Eva Foam instead of a going in for a full desk (the cost of which was proving to be a deterrent for cash crunched departments and schools).
ABOUT EVA FOAM
- It is a soft, yet durable polymer of ethylene and vinyl acetate commonly used in flooring, but also sports equipment and craft.
- EVA foam is easy to work with and comes in a variety of thicknesses and can be cleaned without difficulty.
- The material is sponge-like and comfortable, providing just the right amount of cushioning for comfortable study. The material’s softness means it lessens the load when placed on the lap.
- It is highly weather resilient and has low water absorption, so it can withstand rain if needed to be carried to and fro from home to school and Vice a Versa.
- EVA is free of chlorides, heavy metals, phenols, latex, and all toxics as well as safe for the environment. EVA has the advantage of being 100 % recyclable of all production waste which means that no waste is achieved producing from the material. This helps to exploit the resources using EVA in all productions.
- Not only is EVA foam lap table easy to be transported, but it is easy to store as it can be stacked one on top of the other in school, while not in use.
- The material can withhold heavy use and rough conditions for years, making the choice of EVA foam lap table a good investment in place of desks. It doesn’t easily rip or show wear, so it will look new and fresh for a long time to come.
- Because the material is so easy to work with, it can be produced in many fun colors, textures, and thicknesses. This material is the perfect choice for a bright, colorful study environment.
THE SOLUTION:मेरी मेज मेरी साथी ( THE TRANSPORTABLE TABLE WEIGHING ONLY 200 GM )
THE SOLUTION: A LAP TABLE MADE OF EVA FOAM WHICH IS AFFORDABLE, TRANSPORTABLE AND DURABLE
- The final product that I made at home using a simple paper cutting tool is a lap table of a comfortable dimension of 18 inches by 14 inches. Its thickness is about 1.25 inches which makes it sturdy enough to take the weight of a child’s hands and notebook.
- This lap table can be used at comfortable height while placing it on their lap and working on it while sitting down on the floor. 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 necessarily be borne by the schools facing fund-crunches.
- The young kids can now study without straining their backs too much and that has reduced the stress of school hours unimaginably. This small innovation addresses that affect children
- When provided with a handle, they can be easily hung on the shoulder and carried to and fro between home and school and can be used at both places to study.
- It can conveniently be used in unruly terrain, where transportation of desks is difficult since it only weighs 200 gm.
- Finally, and most importantly, it can be made at a very low cost of Rs90 when made in quantity.
- Thus, it is an attractive and affordable alternative to study desks. Until desks are sanctioned, it would not be a financial burden in low budget schools or on the student himself.
MARKING DIMENSIONS ON THE EVA FOAM SHEET
CUTTING THE FOAM SHEET WITH SIMPLE PAPER CUTTING BLADE ACCORDING TO MARKED DIMENSIONS
PUNCHING HOLES INTO THE FOAM TABLE IN ORDER TO INSERT THE CORD AS TO MAKE A HANDLE TO CARRY THE LAP TABLE
TYING KNOTS ON THE BACK SIDE SO AS TO KEEP THE HANDLE FROM SLIDING AWAY THROUGH THE HOLES
THE LAP TABLES CAN BE LEFT AS IT IS OR STRUNG WITH A CORD, DEPENDING UPON USAGE
THE LAP TABLE CAN BE USED WITHOUT THE HANDLE IN CASE IT NEEDS TO BE STACKED IN SCHOOL
THE HANDLE MAKES IT EASIER TO CARRY TO AND FRO BETWEEN HOME AND SCHOOL IN CASE THE STUDENT NEEDS TO USE IT AT BOTH PLACES TO STUDY
It is commendable that government schemes like RTE are being implemented in schools but parameters that are causing discomfort in terms of their learning environment, availability of infrastructure, and access to proper facilities also need to be given priority. It is understandable that with each sanction going through the hierarchy table, things take time to be sanctioned, but until then with this lap table, we can achieve positive results. This will ensure that the health of the students in rural as well as urban India does not suffer, and they get basic studying facilities. They can conveniently write with the correct posture and distance between the book/copy and the eye using this small but affordable breakthrough.
I have distributed 200 of these this transportable table inplaces where teachingis in open spaces. I have targeted rural teaching spaces where desks have not been provided and informal teaching spaces like under flyovers, in over bridge crossings where permanent locating desks isnot possible . I am also looking at getting these across to tribal areas, and hilly terrains where placing tables might be logistically next to impossible. This lap table MIGHT BE THE ONLY ANSWER to a conventional desk as unlike a desk, it is light, easy to carry and relocate. It only weighs 200 gm!