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Trash for cash
Publication Date : 19-03-2013
An education centre in Indonesia's Depok has come up with an innovative way to help those less fortunate keep up with school fees
Warsiti, 25, spends extra time sorting out the garbage at her employer’s house in Orchid Green Village in Beji, Depok, where she works part-time as a housemaid. She collects all the recyclables she finds to help pay her daughter’s school fees.
“If I bring a large bag of garbage, I’m only required to pay 20,000 rupiah [less than US$2] in monthly tuition,” she told The Jakarta Post over the weekend while picking up her 6-year-old daughter Suci Fitriani from informal early childhood education centre (PAUD) Maskoki on Jl. Rajawali, Beji district.
“I will have to collect more garbage so I can send my younger son to school later this year, too,” she said.
Mahmudah Cahyawati started the education centre in 2010, targeting underprivileged children aged 3 to 6 who could not afford to go to school.
“However, for some of the parents, the school fee was still too high, so I had to create a new system,” she said. She decided she would ask the parents to collect garbage in exchange for school fees, sharing the knowledge on sorting garbage she'd learned when living in Japan.
By creating this system, Cahyawati, a former teacher at a private school, who also works as translator for Japanese companies, said she wanted to teach not only children about the benefit of waste management but also their parents.
The system is quite simple. For one child, parents only have to pay 20,000 rupiah and one plastic bag of garbage per month. “Those who can only pay 15,000 rupiah need to collect more trash. It’s a flexible system,” she said.
Every Friday, a recyclable trash collector fronts up at the school to buy the garbage, which is cleaned by the parents before they turn it in. The money is used as the school’s operational fund and for maintenance. Toys are never bought from the money as the teachers can make toys from the trash.
The trash bank system initiated by Cahyawati has led to the development of 35 trash banks in Depok, south of Jakarta, which gives participants the right to determine the price of their recyclable garbage.
“If we sell the garbage in a large volume, we can get a better price,” she said, adding that the network could collect more than 1 ton of garbage in a week.
“I had to pay for the school maintenance in the first year, but now we have more than enough from the garbage,” she said.
Currently 58 students study at Maskoki.
But the low fee creates a problem of its own as children from middle-class families also want to enrol at the education centre. “We have to make sure that we get the ‘right’ children,” said Ani, a teacher at Maskoki.