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The Indian School Where Students Pay for Lessons With Plastic Waste

on 2020/11/27 5:17:55 ( 442 reads )


INDIA, November 25, 2020 (The Guardian): [HPI note: this story doesn't have a particular "Hindu" angle, but we found it an innovative example of environmental activism.] Every morning, students in Assam's Pamohi village go to school clutching a bag of plastic waste, in exchange for which they will get their day's lessons. Akshar School, founded by Mazin Mukhtar, 32, and his wife Parmita Sarma, 30, has turned its pupils into ecowarriors by waiving school fees and helping to stop local people burning used plastic. The school was founded to provide an education for children in the area, most of whom were working in the local stone quarries, earning about US$3 a day. Few of the hard-pushed parents were keen to send an earning member of the family to study. "When we asked the parents to send their household plastic with their children on the school bus, almost none of them complied. They preferred to burn their plastic at home. So my wife told them we would start charging fees. Fees which they could pay in cash, or in plastic waste from their homes," says Mukhtar. The alternative school fees policy quickly resulted in 100% compliance from parents who also signed a pledge to stop burning plastic.

From the original 20 students, Akshar now has seven teachers managing 110 children aged from 4 to 15, and a 100-strong waiting list. "We try to teach students to take responsibility for their surroundings and to strive to improve them," says Sarma. "As we collect at least 25 units of plastic every week from each student, we are able to muster upwards of 10,000 pieces of plastic each month. These are transformed into eco-bricks for construction. The clouds of toxic smoke from plastic burning which used to plague the school have decreased significantly." Mukhtar and Sarma have now signed with the Guwahati authorities to implement the Akshar model in five government schools and there are plans to start a sustainable landscaping course.

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