In some parts of the world, children don’t go to school — not because they don’t want to, but because their parents don’t have the means to pay for their education. Some of them end up working from an early age to survive and contribute to the family home. However, the Akshar Foundation in India has a school model that seeks to improve the lives of young people through the development of professional and personal skills. One can attend this school by “paying” tuition fees with clean, plastic waste.
Bright Side believes that this school is inspiring and sets an example worth replicating since it allows vulnerable boys and girls to study while taking responsibility for the environment and the conservation of the ecosystem.
These children bring more than a pencil case to class.
Children that live in Assam, India, don’t go unnoticed. On their way to school, they carry books and notebooks in their backpacks along with some plastic waste to pay for their academic fees. The problem of pollution in this country is severe, especially when it comes to plastic waste which generates 26,000 tons per day, 40% of which is not collected.
Plastic waste is used to pay school tuition.
In 2016, Parmita Sarma and Mazin Mukhtar created Akshar, which was meant to be a free education project. However, they immediately focused on recycling after seeing how classrooms were invaded by toxic gases coming from burning plastic waste that the community usually heated to keep their homes warm during the winter.
A solution for families and their community
Following this line of thought, the young couple saw a dual-advantage to their plan — it would benefit both the community and the environment. So Sarma and Mukhtar told these children’s parents to recycle plastic weekly and encouraged them to use it to cover school tuition fees.
The school drew in many students thanks to its modern curriculum.
The school opened its doors to 20 students and became known for its curriculum. Classes are focused on training, technology, conservation, biology, and disaster care, among other things. The curriculum addresses education and employment including training on how to earn a living, run a successful business, develop their community, and heal their environment. They even offer a course on business that trains students to design companies that would embellish public and private areas in their region.
One of its founders left college and put everything on the line for this project in India.
Mukhtar, one of the founders of the project, was studying to become an aeronautical engineer but left college to work with underprivileged, vulnerable families in the United States. Later on, he returned to India where he met his wife, Sarma. Together they developed the school model. Today, they already have about 100 children enrolled in classes that weekly carry 25 clean plastic items to the school to continue their education and take care of the areas they live in.
Parents no longer need to ask their children to drop out of school.
This project has saved many local families since they will no longer have to force their children to abandon their education to work in the quarries. The project offers a salary to older students in exchange for becoming tutors to the younger ones, a pay that increases according to their academic achievements.
The model will be replicated in 100 schools in the coming years.
If the project keeps generating positive results, the couple plans to replicate the model in 100 public schools in India in the next 5 years.
Do you think that more schools should allow costs to be covered through recycling and environmental conservation methods? Do you think this idea would work in your community? Tell us in the comments below!