A school in Assam is doing a remarkable work to bring a positive change in society and environment. In this school students pay plastic waste as fee for their education, in the form of plastic bottles and other non-usable items.
This school, named “Akshar” (meaning “letter” or “alphabet”), is established by a couple, Mazin Mukhtar and his wife Parmita Sharma, in the village of Pamohi, and has been running for 32 years. The couple initially set up the school to spread education among underprivileged children in the area, but later, they also aimed to raise awareness about environmental pollution in the local community and took practical steps in this regard.
The couple established the school to spread the light of knowledge among the children of the underprivileged area, but later they also aimed to raise awareness among the local population about environmental pollution and take action in this regard.
Adverse effect of burning plastic became the driving force of change
In fact, the people of the village used to burn large quantities of plastic bottles and bags for cooking food etc. in their houses and due to the smoke rising from them, the air was being polluted on the one hand and on the other hand, sitting in the classrooms due to this smoke. Children were suffering from cough and chest infections.
Most of the population of the village works hard in the nearby stone quarries. Village children also went to work with their families so very few parents were sending their children to school to study.
Mazin Mukhtar told a correspondent of a British newspaper that when we asked the parents to start sending the plastic bottles used in his house to the children, initially no one listened to us. The wife told them that we are starting to charge the fee. She told them they have two options, either they pay in cash or or pay plastic waste as fee.
Mazin says that after this, all parents started sending plastic bottles and other items along with their children, and they also took a written commitment from the parents that they would not burn plastic items as an offering.
Environmental and social change
In addition to raising awareness about air pollution among children, the school also provides vocational training. During the training, children are taught to install solar panels and practical skills such as carpentry and electrical appliance repair. The school started with 20 children and has now grown to accommodate around 110 students. The age of the students ranges from 4 to 15 years, and they are taught by seven teachers.
Parmita Sharma says that they teach every student to take responsibility for their surrounding environment. Every student contributes 25 items made from plastic as a fee, approximately amounting to 10,000 rupees per month. This initiative results in the collection of a significant amount of plastic waste each month, which is later used to make eco-friendly bricks that are utilized in construction.
Parmita Sharma mentioned that due to their efforts, the air quality in the village and the school, which was previously polluted by the smoke from burning plastic, has significantly improved and is now clean and pure. In this way, we collect around 10 thousand plastic items per month from which eco-friendly bricks are made which are later used in construction. Parmita Sharma said that due to their initiative, the atmosphere around the village and school, which used to be full of smoke and smell from burning plastic, has now become cleaner.