Paying School Fees from Plastic Wastes

Morit International School is supporting poor families in underprivileged suburbs to pay their children’s school fees from proceeds gotten from sales of recyclable plastic bottles. Ugo Aliogo presents the report

The Minister of State Education, Mr. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, recently declared that Nigeria still holds the continental record of children who are out of school.

Specifically, Nwajiuba lamented that Nigeria had more than 10 million out-of-school children (OOSC), which is the highest in sub-Saharan Africa.

The above figure was in contrast with the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu’s declaration that many more Nigerian children are in school than ever before.

Adamu had said the number of OOSC in the country had dropped to 6.946 million from 10.1 million; claiming that as of December 31, 2020, a total of 3,247,590 children, who were not in school, were enrolled within the space of a year and seven months, due to several activities undertaken by the Federal Ministry of Education, particularly, Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA) being implemented in 17 States of the Federation.

Indeed, the quest for quality education has continued to remain a major problem especially for children in disadvantaged communities in Nigeria.

Many children whose parents could not afford their school fees have dropped out of school and engaged in petty trading such as hawking, bus touting, vocational jobs, and others.

But in the midst of these seemingly gloomy situations, a school in Boundary Area of Ajeromi-Ifelodun Local Government Area, known as Morit International School is providing a lifeline for parents who are determined to provide quality education to their wards but don’t have the financial wherewithal through its recycling initiative.

The initiative requires parents who cannot pay their children’s school fees’ to bring used plastic bottles, metals, and other recyclable items to the school. The recyclable plastics and metals are then sold and the proceeds realised will be used in paying a child’s school fees.

The initiative provides that if the school fees of a particular child is N10,200, and the parents of that child brings a full bag of plastics bottles, it is sold and the parents pays half of the fees instead of full payment.
A beneficiary of the initiative, Mrs. Musikrat Sulaimu, who spoke to THISDAY said two of her children in the school have gained from the initiative.

She explained that there are times, the school would pay half payment for them and they would complete the rest, adding that at other times they (school) would pay the entire fees for them.

“Presently, the school fee is N10, 200, before it was N7, 000. Under the current rate, when we present the plastics to the school, we will only pay N4,200 and the school will cover the rest,” she noted.

Another beneficiary, Mrs. Patience Dennis, added: “I have four children in this school. I’m grateful to God for this initiative and I want to thank them for their support and love for us.

“Two years ago, there was a particular company that visited to give scholarships to kids, and my son was one of the beneficiaries, and it was through this plastic initiative that they gave our children this scholarship. After the COVID-19 lockdown, the company started again and we continued to bring the plastics,” he added.
Support from the School

In his remarks, the School Proprietor, Morit International School, Mr. Patrick Mbamarah, said the school was established for low-income families, who could not, “afford the school fees of N8, 500, so I did a price slash and I discovered that most of them could not meet up.”

He hinted that having built a background in recycling he decided to act as the middleman for these parents, to collect plastics and help them sell to use the proceeds to support the schooling of their kids.

Mbamarah explained that to further the conversation on the issue, he called a meeting of the Parent Teachers’ Association (PTA) where he spoke to the parents on the need to collect plastics and use the proceeds to pay school fees for the children, but some of the parents were skeptical and didn’t welcome the idea.

“So I told those parents who were skeptical about the idea that if they are not using plastics to pay their children school fees, they can collect plastics to help others instead of throwing it away, they can bring it to the school and it will be written against a particular child’s name.

“I just want children to go to school that is why I set up the school and created the idea of using plastics. Plastics are just the most popular, we also collect other recyclables,” he said.

The Morit International School Proprietor posited that they are partnering with a lot of recycling companies depending on the one that is coming to pick up, adding that getting the money and using it to pay the school fees of the kids is the utmost goal.

According to him, “I don’t want to partner with one recycling company; I want it to be open. We partner with companies such as Lasigid recyclers, and Wecyclers. We recently started working with Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA).
“We do more than a tonne in a term easily but because of the pandemic, the number has dropped, we hope to get things back on track. Sometimes we do weekly pickup and at other times twice weekly.

“The school opened in 2013 and the initiative started in 2016, but it became popular in 2018. The bank has been supportive regarding this initiative. There was a book the bank managing director gave me to read and it has changed my mentality and view of things. Moreover, the book has been a great support and it thought me how to manage a business properly.

“There was a time the bank brought bags for the kids in the school. They are also bringing plastics to pay the schools of some kids. From the little we have done we have been able to improve the standard of these poor families. We have helped to support 100 families to provide quality education for their children.”

The Role of the Bank
At the center of this initiative is the unwavering support of Accion Microfinance Bank towards the growth and promotion of quality education in such underprivileged suburbs.

The bank has shown a strong passion for environmental sustainability especially by decommissioning the use of diesel generators in all their branches as a result of the smoke and the heat from the diesel which depletes the Ozone layer.

The bank has switched to renewable energy, therefore in all Accion MFB branches, they rely either on power from the national grid or solar power energy to generate electricity. The goal is to prevent noise and environmental pollution and that everyone has cleaner and better air to breathe.

Speaking during a CSR activity at Morit International School which was organised by the bank, the Managing Director, Accion Microfinance Bank, Taiwo Joda, said the bank was committed to supporting the vision of the founder of the school.
“We keyed into the vision of education for all, especially for children. We have helped him to grow and have supported up to 172 school pupils of the poor and vulnerable. The founder’s overriding vision is to have education for every child and every family who cannot afford school fees in Ajegunle.

“The uniqueness of the proposition of the school is how school fees’ are paid. The pupils use plastic bottles to pay their schools fees which are then recycled,” he stated.

Joda stated the bank gave an interest-free loan totaling N160 million in over five months to school owners, adding that despite the company’s interest reduction in 2020, “they are determined to do more support students to grow.”
He also noted that education was key to fighting poverty and tackling unemployment.

The Accion boss further explained that the bank is passionate about education while expressing confidence that they hope to see the Morit International School strive and they would continue to support them.

He hinted that the uniqueness of the proposition of the school is how school fees are paid, stating that the pupils collect used plastic bottles and submit to the school to pay their school fees, “the school, in turn, gives the plastics to recycling companies.”

According to him: “We are here to support the vision of the founder of Morit International School who was also is the customer of the bank. He has been our customer for over six years. We keyed into the vision of education for all, especially for children.

“We have helped him to grow and have up to 172 school pupils of the poor and vulnerable. The founder’s overriding vision is to have education for every child and every family who cannot afford school fees in Ajegunle. The uniqueness of the proposition of the school is how school fees’ are paid. The pupils use plastic bottles to pay their schools which are then recycled.

“One of our key shareholders’ is IFC and we are partners in the green project. The green project talks about having a climate that is habitable for people and in essence prolonging life. So on one aspect, we are putting children in school, by supporting the pupils of Moritz international school.

“We are also supporting and driving our dream to see a cleaner Lagos and Nigeria whenever we operate. So the pupils are allowed in school as long as their parents can out and pick plastic bottles, then use the plastic bottles to pay the children school fees.

“The founder of the school will move the plastic bottle to recyclers for recycling. So when we heard this story, we were excited and ensured that we mobilized bottles and containers. We have a truckload of bottles and containers and hoping that it is able to school fees for 50 pupils in a term.

“This is going to be a continuous initiative from the bank and we are going to say that rather than drop your plastic bottles in sewages, to wreak havoc, we will encourage people to bring those plastic bottles and containers and keep a child in school, so that is the excitement for us. The campaign of the bank is focused on a better environment to live in.”

Expert Opinion

Lending a voice on the initiative is a Lagos-based environmentalist and Founder, Kids Beach Garden, Doyin Ogunye, who lauded the initiative, and stated that it is coming at a time where the number of OOSC in Lagos is at an alarming rate.
She maintained that the initiative began years back in the densely populated Ajegunle communities with huge deposits of residential wastes, and many parents have decided to use a plastic collection to provide quality education for their children.

Ogunye noted that the initiative is also being practiced in Etiosa Local Government Area, where parents are encouraged to bring plastic bottles and recyclable items, then the proceeds are used in paying the school fees of their children.
“We encourage our domestic staff to bring 25kg of plastic bottles and recyclable materials each day. There are times they bring in as much as 38kg of plastic bottles,” she hinted.

She urged the government and the private sector to create the needed awareness about the economic benefits of recycling, noting that a lot of people especially in the rural communities who see themselves as high-class individuals believe that picking plastic bottles is not an attractive venture and is meant for the scavengers only.

According to her, “When it comes to awareness creation on this initiative, we cannot stop talking about it. We have to keep discussing it. The state government should encourage more recycling centers.

“There is an initiative that LAWMA is currently doing and it involves putting 57 recycling centers across the state. Lagos is over 22 million people, and Lagosians are heavy consumers of Fast Moving Consumers Goods (FMCGs) and in a local government area or Local Community Development Authority (LCDA), one collection hub is not enough.

“Therefore there is a need for more recycling banks and places where people can drop off their plastics. There are people that like dropping off their plastic wastes in the general dump, there should be collection points at Estates, where these plastics can be picked up from sources.”

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