Teach the kids and bring plastic every week as fees is all what this Assam school demands from its students.
14-year-old Prasanta is a student herself, but she also teaches six-year-olds at her school in Pamohi on the outskirts of Guwahati. However, Prasanta is not alone.
Older children studying at the Akshar School for a few years have been trained to teach the younger students. They get paid for this, which encourages them to remain in the school and not drop out themselves.
“I had gone to school but had to drop out due to poverty, had to take up work at a stone quarry and with woodcutters to earn but now this school has been a game changer. I learn here and also teach the younger ones and get paid for this. With the money, I can buy something for myself,” Ms Prasanta told NDTV.
In 2013, 30-year-old Mazin Mukhtar returned to India from US, where he was trained in Aerospace engineering. However, he dropped out to teach poor students in the US and then arrived in India to do the same.
Along with his wife Parmita Sarma, who holds a Master Degree in Social Works from TISS, he set up the Akshar School in 2016. Their goal is to bridge the gap between conventional academics and vocational training where students pick up essential life skills required to get a job.
“We agreed that there has to be a new model for the students who live in abject poverty, so we came up with this model where students learn and they are also trained in different vocational studied — the first it to be a teacher,” said Mr Mukhtar.
The school started with 20 children. Today, there are 110 — all of them belonging to poor families.
The school is affiliated to the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS).
If students bring at least 25 items of plastic waste every week they don’t have to pay their school fees.
The plastic is recycled and some of it is turned into eco-friendly bricks which are then used in new constructions at the school.
“We saw that family members of our students used to burn plastics to get rid of them. We first explained to them but it didn’t work so we made it mandatory that they have to collect plastic waste as tuition fee and that is recycled to make eco-plastic bricks,” Parmita Sarma said.
No grades are given to the students here.
“We really enjoy the way we are taught in this school, we are never scolded, even we play a lot and we are happy with this change in our lives,” said five-year-old student Bandhan Kumari.
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