This Indian school accepts plastic waste instead of fees

India 2019

Hampi, India (Chelsea Aaron, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Douglas Broom, Senior Writer, Formative Content


It’s not unusual for children to arrive at school carrying bags. Usually, you might expect them to be full of books. But at one school in India, students are turning up with bags of trash.

The country has a plastic waste problem, generating 26,000 tonnes of the stuff every day. And in Pamohi, in the northeastern state of Assam, people had taken to burning it to keep warm in the harsh winters of the Himalayan foothills.

However, three years ago, when Parmita Sarma and Mazin Mukhtar arrived in the area and set up the Akshar Foundation School, they came up with an innovative idea: asking parents to pay their children’s school fees with plastic waste.

Mukhtar gave up a career as an aero engineer to work with disadvantaged families in the US before returning to India where he met Sarma, a social work graduate.

Together, they developed their idea, requesting that each child bring in at least 25 items every week. Although the foundation is a charity, supported by donations, its says the plastic waste “fees” encourage a sense of community ownership.

The school now has more than 100 pupils. Not only is it helping to improve the local environment, it has also started to transform the lives of local families by tackling child labour.

Instead of leaving school at a young age to work in the local quarries for $2.50 a day, older pupils are paid to teach the school’s younger children. As they progress academically, their pay increases.

 Pupils at the school learn essential digital literacy skills.

Pupils at the school learn essential digital literacy skills.
Image: Akshar Foundation

This way, families can afford to keep their children in school for longer. And not only do the pupils learn to manage money, they also get a practical lesson in the financial benefits of getting an education.

Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s Nai Talim, or basic education, philosophy, Akshar’s curriculum mixes practical training with conventional academic subjects. The goal is to support teenagers through school and into college or an apprenticeship.

Practical education includes learning how to install and operate solar panels and helping to run the school’s landscaping business, which works to improve local public spaces. The school has also partnered with an education technology charity to provide pupils with tablet computers and interactive learning materials to boost their digital literacy.

 What a typical day looks like for students at Akshar School.

What a typical day looks like for students at Akshar School.
Image: Akshar Foundation

Outside of the classroom pupils run an animal shelter, too, rescuing and treating injured or abandoned dogs before finding them homes locally. And the school recycling centre produces eco-bricks that can be used for simple construction projects.

The founders have already taken their approach to the capital Delhi, helping turn around an under-performing school in just six months. Their Akshar School Reform Fellowship now plans to add five more schools next year, with one ultimate goal: transforming public schools in India.

Advertising

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Trade deals’ pure realism: it may take 10 years for a post-Brexit agreement

Threat to biodiversity risks a flood of economic ruin

Assassinations in Ethiopia amidst regional ‘coup’ attempt, condemned by UN chief

Mixed news about the Eurozone economy

Parliament compromises on Banking Union but sends market abusers to jail

Deutsche Bank chased away from US, threatened with more fines

Consumer product quality: MEPs take aim at dual standards

Finance for SMEs: Alternative supply mechanisms do exist

COVID-19: More new virus cases outside China than in, ‘no time for complacency’, says UN health agency

Eurozone slowly but surely builds its Banking Union

Globally, youth are the largest poverty-stricken group, says new UN report

‘Two pack’ austerity package in force but with less vigor

Civil society groups matter for Cambodia’s sustainable development: UN expert

China is a renewable energy champion. But it’s time for a new approach

Six children among 53 confirmed fatalities after Libya detention centre airstrikes: Security Council condemns attack

EU and China in search of a win-win agreement through strategic cooperation ahead of the EU-China summit

EU tourism industry expects a new record year in 2014

Consumer protection: Commission welcomes political agreement by Council on the Representative Actions Directive

5 ways the world is rallying around Australia as bushfires rage

EU and Mercosur reach agreement on trade

More solidarity and interaction between generations needed to challenge age stereotypes and ingrained ageism

Family businesses are the lifeblood of the Middle East. How do we ensure they survive?

The EU’s outermost regions: strengthened partnership bears fruit

5 facts to know about Africa’s powerhouse – Nigeria

European Business Summit 2014: The role of youth entrepreneurship education in EU’s Strategy for Competitiveness

Concerned over Haiti’s political crisis, Guterres promises ‘continuous commitment’

How fixing broken food systems can help us meet all the SDGs

International Women’s Day 2019: women’s power in politics

Disaster Medicine in Medical Education: the investment you just can´t afford to ignore

Not faith, ‘but those who manipulate the faithful’ driving wedge between religions, UN-backed forum in Baku told

How bad could British healthcare get for its citizens abroad post-Brexit?

Outgoing UN official praises Iraq’s ‘exemplary peaceful transfer of power’ at the top

Easing funding woes for UN agency assisting Palestine refugees a ‘wise investment for today and the future’

Privatization and public health: a question of Human Rights

10 cities are predicted to gain megacity status by 2030

Idlib deal could save three million ‘from catastrophe’ says UN chief, as militants are urged to lay down arms

First-ever EU defence industry fund to finance joint development of capabilities

COP25 climate talks: What just happened, and what lies ahead?

More funds needed to counter ‘persistent and multi-faceted humanitarian problems’ in Ethiopia

Parental leave: why we can’t wait a century for equal rights for women

Universal Health Coverage will ‘drive progress’ on 2030 Development Agenda

Where is Egypt leading the Middle East and the Mediterranean economy?

Trade surplus up production down in Eurozone

Realise the beauty of unity in diversity

Terrorism diverts resources from ‘much-needed’ development to ‘costly’ security, warns UN envoy for Central Africa

5 things to know about the Western Balkans

Reforms in the Western Balkans and Turkey: annual assessments and recommendations

JADE Generations Club: Connecting perspectives, changing Europe.

Theresa May’s global Britain against Philip Hammond’s Brexit fog

Venezuela: Parliament calls for urgent EU help for people fleeing the country

“None of our member states has the dimension to compete with China and the US, not even Germany!”, Head of EUREKA Pedro Nunes on another Sting Exclusive

Intensified Al Qaeda and ISIL activity in Yemen ‘deeply worrying’, says UN Human Rights Office

Australia’s bushfires have pumped out half a year’s CO2 emissions

Further reforms will promote a stronger and more inclusive Hungarian economy

Here are five things to know about the future of being human

How to accelerate digital literacy in the enterprise world

External action: more funds for human rights, development and climate change

Libya: UN report urges accountability for deadly attack against migrant centre

Scotland “shows the way” to separatist movements as Catalonia calls a vote on independence

UN, global health agencies sound alarm on drug-resistant infections; new recommendations to reduce ‘staggering number’ of future deaths

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s