It sounds strange but it is real - a school in Lagos State accepts empty plastic bottles from parents and guardians in exchange for payment of their children’s school fees.
Morit International School at Iyalode Street, Ajegunle, Lagos, initiated Recycles Pay Education project of African Clean-Up Initiative (ACI) to lessen financial burden on parents.
The simple task is picking and taking plastic wastes to the school to pays fees in place of cash. Our reporter who visited the school observed that despite this seeming benevolence, its condition is however not too rosy for pupils and their teachers, as it operates in a rather rough structure in a compound fenced and roofed with polythene materials. The compound is partitioned with plywood to create classrooms for crèche, nursery and primary classes while the plywood also serves as board for writing.
The proprietor, Mr. Patrick Nbamarah, said the school which presently has a population of 120 pupils, was established about five years ago to provide affordable and quality education for children of low income earners. It charges N7,200 for the crèche and nursery section while N8,200 is paid in the primary section per term. As cheap as the fees seem according to him, some parents still found it very difficult to pay and considered withdrawing their children after owing fees for several terms.
“My passion is to see all children of school age in school and because I do not want any of them roaming the streets during school hours, I sat down to think of an alternative way of meeting up with school fees because we also need money, however little, to run the school.
“I had previous knowledge of recycling. So in partnership with ACI, I contacted WeCyclers, a recycling company, on the issue. Afterwards, I called for a PTA meeting where I brought the matter to the table. The parents did not only accept the offer but were very eager to launch the programme. As I speak, a parent with three kids has paid off her children’s school fees through this programme and even has a balance with the school against next term,” he said.
Patrick said that at the moment, over 30 families pay their wards’ school fees with the plastic wastes initiative. This programme, apart from increasing enrolment in the school, is also contributing to cleanliness in the area while the school will by next term begin collecting wastes like empty sachets of water in addition to the plastic bottles as fees.
Patrick, a graduate of Industrial Chemistry, said each plastic sells for N1, which means, 7,200 plastics make up the fee for a nursery pupil while a pupil in the primary section needs to bring 8,200 empty plastic bottles.
“The parents bring the plastics on designated days, while the recycling company buys from them and pays the money into the school account. I only serve as a middleman, connecting the sellers to the buyer,” he said.
Parents, he said, are allowed to bring the plastics in bits until the required quantity is met so as to reduce stress while those who cannot get the quantity required are allowed to balance it up with cash.
“We keep records of the plastics as they are brought in until they are completed. Surprisingly, the parents are enjoying the programme such that they want to turn us to their bank. They want the school to collect plastic wastes from them and give them cash to enable them attend to their other needs,” he said, adding that children are however not encouraged to go far from their homes in search of plastic wastes.
“It is a win-win situation, the environment wins, the children win, the parents win and the school wins. By next term, we will begin to collect empty sachets of water in exchange for school fees, we believe that if we take these wastes off the streets, mother earth will smile at us for saving it. This will also go a long way to remove plastic and nylon wastes from gutters, drainage and canals. So to us, this is the best thing that has happened to the environment,” he said as he encouraged other schools to emulate Morit.
“Though, the money from the waste plastic bottles is not much, it balances what the parents can afford. This initiative has significantly improved parents’ payment of school fees and at the same time taught children how to manage their wastes and promote a cleaner environment,” he said.
He therefore appealed to the government to partner with the school on the programme by providing a larger space where parents can dump the empty plastic bottles for pick-up by the recycling company.
“Some parents can do far more than what they are doing now but because we don’t have space, they are limited. If there is space, we can do 10 tonnes in a week,” he noted.
He also called on Nigerians with the wherewithal and investors to come to the aid of the school to enable it erect a good structure and expand.
“I am not making any profit from this school. We are currently over-subscribed, so, we need help so as to get a larger and comfortable place of learning for the children,” he said.
Chief Environmental Officer of ACI, Mr Alex Akhigbe, noted: “A kilo of the sorted plastics sells for between N20 and N25. So, empty bottles that were seen as wastes in the past are not anymore.”
As enrollment increases, Morit plans to move to a more befitting place as soon as funds are available while it also plans to establish a vocational centre alongside the school where idle youths in the area can learn skills.