This is a typical scene in this unusual school— Akshar, tucked away in the pristine woods of Pamohi, Assam, where students bring polythene bags full of plastic waste as the only form of fee that the school accepts.
Originally from Assam, Parmita guided Mazin through the social landscape of the region, the challenges, and the statistics on paper and on-ground, ultimately leading up to the idea of starting Akshar, a school that can bridge the gap between conventional academics and vocational training.
“We realised that education had to be socially, economically and environmentally relevant for these children. One of the first challenges was to convince the local villagers to send their kids to school, as most of them would work as labourers in the nearby stone quarries. So among other things, we had to design a curriculum that would fit their needs and build a creative pipeline of employment, post-education,” said Mazin.
At the stone quarries, these students would get Rs 150-200 per day. We could never match that monetarily, so instead, we proposed a mentorship peer-to-peer learning model, whereby older kids would tutor the younger ones, and in return get paid in toy currency notes that can be used to buy snacks, clothes, toys, shoes, etc., added Parmita.
The school, through their students, educated the community about the health hazards they were exposing themselves to, with the regular practice of burning plastic.
To strengthen the message, the founders also designed Akshar’s curriculum in a way that would make the children aware of the issues.
These students with the help of teachers then create various construction materials with the plastic waste that can help in creating better infrastructure on campus.
So, unlike traditional schools, Akshar does not have age-specific standards or grades; instead, it’s based entirely on the knowledge level of students.
The levels are decided based on the knowledge of the students, tested at the time of admission. The student will then have to perform well to climb up the levels. This is to ensure that the quality of education is continually improving
We hope their vision travels far and wide, bringing a much-needed wave of change.
Reference: The Better India