Akshar Forum, Guwahati

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Environmental activism

2019/ Mopping up plastic waste

Vishal Das, July 26, 2019: The Times of India

A young couple from Assam has set up a school with a unique enrolment criterion — students must collect and bring 25 items of plastic waste every week. The plastic waste is then processed by the students at the recycling unit on the premises and turned into ecological bricks, which are used for developing the campus infrastructure. The plastic waste is the “fee” accepted by the school.

Akshar Forum — the model school in Guwahati’s Gorchuk area — was established in June 2016 by Mazin Mukhtar and his wife Parmita Sarma. It has 110 students, aged from four to 15, who come from the nearby villages of Pamohi, Boragaon and Gorchuk.

“In order to stop the widespread burning of plastic in these villages, we decided to educate the community on the health hazards of burning plastic,” said Parmita. Mazin arrived in India from New York in 2013 for a school project. He met Parmita, a student of social work from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, while working in the education sector. “Many dropouts were working in factories and stone quarries from a very young age, in very difficult conditions. We decided to set up a school that will suit their financial needs while providing them quality education,” Mukhtar said. The school also follows a unique teaching method where teenagers in poverty are paid to teach the students, a strategy that reduces cost and keeps teens in school. The curriculum of the school specifically aims to combine conventional academics with vocational training.

The young couple also plans to introduce a fellowship programme called ‘Akshar Fellowship’ to train talented graduates, who will be coached in the unique teaching methods followed at the model school. The trainees will then replicate the same teaching techniques at various government schools.

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