Guwahati: 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 procure free education.
Situated in the village of Pamohi, Akshar School accepts fee only in the form of plastic waste. This started since the day of its inception in 2016. Students bring in plastic waste to the school each day, where they are taught how to recycle and reuse the product. This helps them learn about the health hazards of burning plastic in the open. The plastic waste collected from students is then used to make different kinds of items in the school compound.
“Akshar's model teaches students to take responsibility for their surroundings and to strive to improve them,” says the school on its website. “Students pay their school fees in the form of clean plastic waste from their homes and participate in the school Recycling Centre while learning environmental science.”
This unique initiative was started by Mazin Mukhtar and Parmita Sarma. Mukhtar wished to work for the education sector in the state – he was helped in this endeavour by Sharma, a student from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).
When the school was first started, it had just 20 students; now, seven teachers look after at least one hundred students. It runs classes from one to nine for students of four to 15 years of age.
The founders said they were shocked to see people create a bonfire out of used plastic items in order to beat the winter cold. Mukhtar and Sarma immediately decided to create hazards of plastic pollution.
Initially, they 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.
Each student needs to collect at least 25 waste items each week after which they are taught how to recycle them — the school teaches them how to make construction material by recycling waste plastic.