For most kids, the end of a school year means the opportunity to start creating a back-to-school shopping list that includes amongst other things, a new backpack. However for many students in rural India where parents can barely afford school fees, owning even one backpack is a luxury that very few can indulge in.
The students who walk long distances to get to school, therefore either end up carrying the books in their hands or inside plastic bags. What's even worse is that the schools have no desks or chairs. This means that the kids spend the entire day on the hard ground hunched over with their books on the floor or on their knees. Not surprisingly, this makes for an extremely uncomfortable school day.
Now thanks to a collaboration between Mumbai-based nonprofit Aarambh and local design firm DDB Mumbra, there may be some relief. According to Shobha Murthy the founder of Aarambh, the organization wanted to provide the students with both a backpack and school desk, but were afraid that budgetary constraints would prevent them from doing so.
Fortunately, the designers at DDB Mumbra came up with an ingenious solution - a backpack that transforms into a school desk in a few seconds. The best part is that it is made from recycled cardboard and therefore costs only 10 Indian Rupees or $0.20 USD to make. DDB Mumbra says that they tested several designs with the children to ensure that it was easy to assemble as well as ergonomically correct as a desk, before settling on the final version.
Given that the backpack/desk combo is made from cardboard, it does have a limited lifespan of between six months to a year. It is also susceptible to rain, something the designers are trying to fix by developing a low-cost waterproof material that can be coated on the surface of the cardboard. However, the 10,000 students at the six schools in the western state of Maharashtra where 'Help Desk' has been distributed, are not complaining - They are just happy to finally have something that will make their school day, less painful.
Resources: treehugger.com, fastcompany.com