This school in Assam accepts plastic waste as a fee, creating environmental awareness among the local community

Students at this school pay dry plastic wastes as a fee and receive vocational skill training in embroidery, solar technology, and carpentry.

A school run by a couple in Guwahati, Assam is uplifting the lives of underprivileged kids and also instilling a sense of being eco-friendly.

Charging ‘dry plastic waste’ as fee, the school also instructs students to deposit at least 10 to 20 plastic items per week, and pledge to not burn plastic. This initiative is an attempt to curb plastic pollution and create awareness about the harmful effects of burning it.

Founded by Parmita Sarma and Mazin Mukhtar in June 2016, Akshar School now has a strength of around 100 students from four to 15 years of age. It is funded by the Indian Oil Company.

Class in session at Akshar School (Image: Efforts For Good)

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Speaking to Efforts For Good about the school, Mazin said,

The local villagers used to burn their plastic waste after every few days. Toxic fumes would waft into our classrooms and loom over the neighbourhood. So, a few months ago, we included the ‘plastic school fee’ in our list of recycling projects. The school is free and students are asked to collect all dry plastic waste from their homes and submit to us instead.

To put discarded plastic into use, students are taught to recycle it for small construction projects like eco-bricks and plant guards. They also plan to build boundary walls, toilets, and some pathways from plastic waste. This will help them to move around in the school campus during the monsoons, which is a severe time across the state.

Wall made from discarded plastic bottles (Image: Efforts For Good)

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Spread over an acre, the school has two senior teachers and four junior teachers. Subjects like science, geography, and mathematics are taught here. Considering the impoverished backgrounds of most of the students, the school provides vocational skill training in carpentry, embroidery, and solar technology, so that the students can be employable once they graduate.

Speaking to YourStory about the school, Mazin says,

We don’t have CBSE, state or ICSE boards in our school. Our students are enrolled for NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling). The advantage here is that students gain flexibility and can learn more in terms of life-skills to ensure employability in the future.

Getting hands on experience on solar panels (image: Efforts For Good)

In Akshar, students can attend classes not according to age but on the basis of knowledge and skills. Speaking on the same with The Logical Indian, Parmita said,

The levels are decided based on knowledge of  students, tested at the time of admission— conducted every Friday. The students will then have to perform well to climb up the levels. This is to ensure that the quality of education is continuously improving.

Here, senior students have the liberty to teach juniors as a part of the school’s peer-to-peer programme. In return, older students are paid with toy currencies, which is accepted in nearby shops where they can buy snacks, toys, shoes, and even clothes.

Students busy in a vocational training session (image: Efforts For Good)

Besides uplifting the lives of these students, Akshar School has also influenced villagers into saving our environment. Instead of burning plastic, families are now coming forward and participating in recycling drives and creating awareness.

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