Back in 2016 Parmita Sarma and Mazin Mukhtar started a small school in Assam, India to educate underprivileged kids. It was meant to be a free school for all, but when its classrooms got filled with toxic fumes because of someone burning plastic to warm their houses, Parmita and Mazin had a great idea. They encouraged their students to pick up plastic waste in their homes and neighborhood and bring it to school as a “fee.” What started as a small experimental school, soon turned into a paradigm-shifting educational project that teaches kids a simple truth: you’ve got to start with yourself to change the world for the better.
Here at GIGGAG we’ve had a closer look at how this unique school with a revolutionary approach to education works, and here’s what we’ve learned.
Parmita and Mazin, both experts in education and social work, started Akshar school to help local underprivileged kids get the skills they would need in their adult life. One of the difficulties they faced was convincing the locals to let their kids go to school, because many children in the neighborhood worked in the stone quarries.
Kids got paid for their labor, so in order to attract them to school Parmita and Mazin worked out a peer-to-peer teaching model, where older kids teach younger kids and get toy currency payments which they can use to buy some food in a nearby shop or other things from the internet. “We simply exchange it for real currency and buy them things from Amazon that can be bought within that amount,” says Parmita.
Fighting child labor and bringing kids back to school was not the only problem Parmita and Mazin had to deal with. In order to heat their homes, many locals made bonfires from plastic waste which filled the neighborhood with poisonous fumes.
When the school founders realized how big this ecological disaster was, they found a brilliant solution: kids were now to pay the “schooling fee” with the plastic waste they collected in their homes and neighborhoods. Now when kids come to school in the morning, apart from their school bags they hold polyethylene bags filled with the plastic waste they’ve managed to collect.
The school campus has its own recycling center where all the waste collected by the students is turned into construction material. Plastic bags that would otherwise end up in a landfill or get burned are stuffed inside plastic bottles and turned into solid eco-bricks used for construction projects. One of the ways kids use these bricks is by building flowerbeds in the school yard.
The school teaches the kids about all the threats that we as humanity are posing to our planet to make them more responsible and kinder when it comes to nature. Here kids are taught gardening, computer and solar technologies, and they take part in educating the community about all the dangers of burning plastic waste. According to Parmita, the hard work that the kids and teachers are doing has already inspired many locals to take part in recycling campaigns and made them aware of the ecological problems the community is facing.
Akshar school also has an animal shelter of its own. Students and staff have already found homes for 20 abandoned and injured dogs. All the animals that get into the shelter are cleaned, vaccinated, and sterilized.
Students are responsible for taking care of the animals, feeding them, and giving them medicine until they find new owners. The school founders hope that more schools will want to implement this model where less animals suffer and more kids learn empathy and the basic principles of medical care.
Akshar school teaches its students much more than conventional school subjects. One of its main objectives is to bring up a generation of kind, generous, and responsible people who know how to live in harmony with each other and nature.
The school partners with local governments to transform existing government schools and help them introduce new teaching methods. Parmita and Mazin have a 5 year plan to reform 100 schools, and we hope they manage to bring their good plans to life, together with their students.
What do you think about Akshar school’s initiative? Do you think our world would become better if we had more schools that taught our kids to be responsible residents of planet Earth?