Imagine attending a school where the sole focus is education, and you don’t have to pay for it. A place where you can pursue your studies regardless of your background, without the burden of financial constraints. Akshar Forum in Assam has turned this vision into reality through its innovative school and an even more remarkable admission system: exchanging plastic bottles for education.
Founded in 2016 by Parmita Sarma and Mazin Mukhtar in the heart of Assam’s lush paradise, this school has transformed education into an adventure and fees into a commitment to a brighter, more sustainable future.
However, building Rome wasn’t a one-day endeavor, and similarly, when the couple initially embarked on this project, their journey was far from easy. Their first challenge was attracting students to the school, as children in the region were more focused on earning a living than acquiring an education. To address this issue, the pair engaged with the local children.
These children revealed that during winter, they burned plastic and plastic bottles to keep warm. The couple decided to address two issues at once and adopted a unique approach: they encouraged students to collect plastic bottles and deposit them at the school every Friday in exchange for education.
This isn’t the only aspect that sets this school apart. Unlike any other school in India, students are placed in classes based on their aptitude, not their age. So, regardless of whether you are a child or a teenager, if your intellectual abilities exceed your age group, you are welcome to receive education at your level.
One of the primary challenges faced by the school administrators was, as mentioned earlier, students’ desire to earn money. To counter this, founders Parmita Sarma and Mazin Mukhtar devised a solution: they decided to employ students within the school. As eligible students progressed to higher classes, those with the capability were employed as teachers in lower classes and were even compensated for their efforts. This incentive encourages students to stay in school longer and not miss out on their education.
Giving money to young children can sometimes pose risks, as they or their parents might misuse it. To address this challenge, the school introduced a point system where employed students earn points instead of cash. For example, 50 points are equivalent to 50 rupees. To simplify transactions, the founders collaborated with local stores where students could exchange their points for goods. The school pays the shopkeepers the corresponding cash amount at the end of each month. This system ensures that students can buy what they need and spend their allowance responsibly.
Akshar Forum School, with its unique initiatives and innovative solutions to challenges, demonstrates that education doesn’t always have to come with a price tag or excuses. Whether in remote locations or elsewhere, one can pursue education or teaching if they have the determination to overcome obstacles along the way.
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