A couple was determined to bring positive changes not only educationally but also environmentally. They took an initiative to teach the students and give them tuitions within a community in exchange for plastic waste. They took this step/initiative for the students who could not afford to pay the fees to attend the school. The transformation of the town that happened thereafter was something that no one was prepared for!
Sarma and Mukhtar opened Akshar Foundation School in Pamohi, a small town in Assam where the parents would prefer to send their children to work in stone quarries over school just to earn about $2.50 per day. This left to a transformation of the town. As they progress academically, their pay increases. When the parents found about the Akshar Foundation School by Sarma and Mukhtar, it turned out to be a great learning experience and an amazing transition for the school. This school successfully without fighting declined the count of child labor which was extremely prominent in the local families. In this way, families can afford to keep their children in school for longer. And not only do the pupils learn to manage money, but they also get a practical lesson in the financial benefits of getting an education.
What does this system do?
The passion for teaching by these founders is shown through their focused curriculum. This was so evident that from the 20 students when they started, today they have over 100 students. The best part about their school is that they do not charge the tuition fees but ask the students to get about 25 plastic waste items like plastic bottles, packaging, plastic straws, and similar items every week.
Their carefully planned curriculum focuses on making sure that the students are aware of their environment and its issues and how important it is to become a good steward of their communities. So why is it important to get into the fray and have such initiatives in line with the education or the EdTech machinery like other states such as Tripura and Rajasthan.
Why do we need sustainability lessons as a part of a child’s schooling? The answer is quite simple. While sustainability is something that all human beings need to learn, children in particular have to be made sensitive towards the needs of the planet. We are facing rapid degradation of all the natural resources that we have and pretty soon, we are heading for a place where dire consequences await us. So what are we going to do about it? While we take measures as adults and even corporates and governments jump in to do their bit, we have to make the efforts a more main stream thing by involving children. This has to be done by bringing in sustainability measures as a necessary life skill – much like counting and spelling – so that the dire consequences can be mitigated. These measures have led to the transformation of one town, so imagine what it can do when applied across many other towns and villages across the country.
How is it helping in keeping students in the classrooms?
Roused by Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘Nai Talim’, or fundamental education, reasoning, philosophy, Akshar Foundation School’s curriculum blends practicality with conventional scholarly subjects. The objective is to help young people through school and into colleges or an apprenticeship. Practical education incorporates figuring out how to install and operate solar panels and help with running the school’s landscaping business, which attempts to improve nearby open spaces. Outside the classroom, students run a shelter for animals. This involves saving and treating harmed, abandoned dogs before finding them homes locally. Also, the school’s recycle center produces environment-friendly bricks that can be utilized for basic construction ventures.
Is education accessible in India?
What happens when a country with over 3 million children lives on the streets? Or maybe over 150 million work as child laborers? What happens when despite having a national policy for compulsory primary education is received only to 50% of the children? This is where EdTech steps in to contribute to the transformation of a town.
The statement “Children are the future of the nation” stops making sense! We have a lot to answer for, and as concerned citizens, we must do something about it. But to give a fair idea check out the Child Right Preamble, as well as its relevance in India.
There is no single point of failure but a few points in the Indian education system. It has seen an ongoing systematic failure. Lack of education is a fundamental problem in India, and the state of the Indian government schools is a clear illustration of this. Education is a constitutional right in India, but its provision falls well below an adequate standard.
Can this system keep up with the demands of the pandemic?
This green school of Assam, that accepts plastic waste as school fees, and teaches life skills is exactly what our society needs right now. The Akshar Foundation School located in Pamohi on the outskirts of Guwahati, Assam; has students who belong to the marginalized sector of the society. Being aware of the fact that these families and children will get the worst hit, they acted upon this situation as soon as possible to raise funds and help these families with food and other essential commodities.
Sarma and Mukhtar have taken their strategy to Delhi, helping pivot an under-performing school in only a half year. Their Akshar School Reform Fellowship now plans to include five additional schools one year from now, with one ultimate objective: changing government-funded schools in India. They have shown us that there is much more to schooling than simply helping children graduate out of school and college. With these kind of ideals and ethics, we can be sure that there will be a mass transformation of towns acorss the country.
One can also tie up such efforts with other organisations like Teach for India to create a proper main stream syllabus that would tackle such issues during the schooling of children in remote areas as well.