Welcome to Nigeria, where parents trade plastic bottles for school fees. A partnership between Africa Cleanup Initiative (ACI), an NGO with a focus on sustainability and Morit International School in Nigeria, through a program called RecyclesPay and a collaboration with schools in low-income communities, allows parents who are unable to afford fees for their children to do so using plastic bottles they collect.
32-year-old Oriola Oluwaseyi a mother of four frequents streets to collect plastic waste bottles from retail stores, then later drops the bottles at the where her 8-year old daughter, Rebecca attends primary school for her tuition fee downpayment.
Two times a month, Oriola must visit her daughter’s school with bags full of sorted plastic bottle recyclables, considering she does not earn enough to cover the annual $50 for school fees. The more the bottles she collects the much of the tuition fee she’s able to cover. For every 200 kilograms of recyclable bottles, she can earn up to $11 off the term’s tuition.
“My daughter’s proprietor introduced me to this program last year, and I subscribed to the initiative because I knew it was something to relieve myself of the burden of spending money on the fees. The program has given me leverage to channel the funds I would have spent on school fees, to buying of school bag, new pair of sandals and books for her,” Oriola said.
ACI has run its projects in five schools in Lagos and has reached more than 1,000 school children. According to Alexander Akhigbe, founder of ACI, the RecyclesPay scheme is providing solutions to Nigeria’s environmental and climate issues.
“We are working on the deplorable state of the Nigerian environment and on the other hand improve education by using plastic bottles to substitute tuition fees so as to encourage parents to send their children to school and then save more money to fix other challenges at home,” he said.
Bottles collected from parents are sorted and compressed by Wecyclers, a social enterprise in Nigeria with a focus on waste collection to ensure that all plastic bottles are converted to reusable materials.