Used plastic is seen as a waste product everywhere, but for the students of a Guwahati school, it is no less than gold. For them, used plastic is the means to get free education.
Back in 2013, Mazin Mukhtar and Parmita Sarma met in India for the first time. Apparently, they have one common dream and that is to bring change in the field of education. In 2016, their aspiration led them to build a sustainability-driven free school in the heart of Assam called Akshar.
Initially, Mazin and Parmita came up against a roadblock as most parents were unwilling to send an earning member to study. But they created a curriculum that would fit the financial needs of the families while providing their children with proper education.
“We wanted to start a free school for all, but stumbled upon this idea after we realized a larger social and ecological problem brewing in this area. I still remember how our classrooms would be filled with toxic fumes every time someone in the nearby areas would burn plastics. Here it was a norm to burn waste plastic to keep warm. We wanted to change that and so started to encourage our students to bring their plastic waste as school fees.”
Akshar was a small school that started off with 20 students now has almost 100 students aged between 4 and 15. These young minds are being taught the importance of education, environmental sustainability and giving back to their community by getting them fully involved in the school’s different activities.
“We are not a typical school, and that’s apparent from the moment you enter. Here, you will find students attending classes sitting in open spaces under bamboo roofs. The idea behind this is to break open the conventional ideas of education. And so, instead of age-specific grades or class, we have levels, where students of various age groups study the same thing all at the same time.”
In this unique school, students are expected to bring a polythene bag full of about 25 items of plastic waste weekly as a ‘payment’ for their fees. These plastics will then be recycled.
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