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Here’s a really different story that arose from the pristine woods of Pamohi, Assam, where students bring polythene bags full of plastic waste as the only form of fee that this school run by a couple, accepts.

“We wanted to start a free school for all, but stumbled upon this idea after we realized a larger social and ecological problem brewing in this area. I still remember how our classrooms would be filled with toxic fumes every time someone in the nearby areas would burn plastics. Here it was a norm to burn waste plastic to keep warm. We wanted to change that and so started to encourage our students to bring their plastic waste as school fees,” said Parmita Sarma, who, along with Mazin Mukhtar, founded the school in June 2016.

Back in the year 2013, Mazin had come to India from New York school project on his mind. Eventually, his work led him to meet Parmita, a Masters student in Social Work at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), who coincidentally was planning the same to work in the education sector.
Hailing from Assam, Parmita helped Mazin through the social landscape of the region, the challenges that were posed, and the statistics on paper and on-ground, which ultimately led them to the idea of starting Akshar, a school that can fill the patch between regular academics and vocational training.

“We realized 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.

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