School Fees Assam Style

At the Akshar School, bottles and straws are keeping children in the classroom.

Parmita Sarma and Mazin Mukhtar founded the Akshar primary school in Assam, but many students were struggling to afford an education. Another problem they faced was that people would burn waste, including plastic, in the winter to stave off the cold, filling the area with harmful fumes.

Parmita and Mazin found a common solution to both issues - they started accepting plastic waste in place of school fees. Children, between the ages of 4 and 15, now bring 25 plastic waste items to the school per week instead of paying tuition fees. Even local shops and homes have supported the movement. And now the local environment is much cleaner and tidier too!

“We wanted to start a free school for all,” Sarma told Better India, “but stumbled upon this idea after we realised a larger social and ecological problem brewing in this area.”

It took a little time, but their initiative has transformed the community. Ever since school became so affordable, the number of students grew from 20 to over 100. After witnessing the success of their innitiative, Parmita and Mazin plan to expand their efforts and open 100 similar schools in the next 5 years.

Akshar’s curriculum focuses on making students aware of environmental issues, and the need to give back. The school also offers a mentorship programme in which older students tutor younger students and are paid with tokens that they can use to buy snacks, clothes, or toys at nearby shops or online.