How waste management is tearing down educational barriers in Lagos
By Chidera Naomi | Nigeria A good and well-structured educational system is one of the most important factors in a country's socio-economic growth. In the fight against poverty and ignorance, education is a crucial tool. It equips the individual with the requisite expertise and skills to realize their full potential and take advantage of life's opportunities. Poverty and Overpopulation as a Barrier to Education One in every five of the world’s out-of-school children is in Nigeria. Lagos, which is the most populated state in Nigeria, is arguably the state with the most schools, students, and teachers in Nigeria. Since 1967, the Lagos State Government claims that Lagos has consistently produced the largest number of candidates for public exams in Nigeria. As a melting pot with a population of over 24 million people, providing quality and affordable education in Lagos State has been a difficult task. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 40.15% percent of Nigeria’s population lives below poverty, while in Lagos, it is 4.5%. The people within this 4.5% make less than $2 a day. This is hardly enough for them to survive daily, not to talk of sending their children to school. With this fact being known, Patrick Bemaraha, who is the director of Merit International School, took it upon himself to find a solution to this dilemma. Lagos’ Bourgeoning Population Affects Waste Disposal Lagos which is the commercial capital of Nigeria is home to over 19 million people. With this number being mentioned we can only imagine the amount of waste generated by this city. Lagos is surrounded by coastal lines and is faced with a huge waste problem due to the waste generated by the most populous city in Africa. According to the Lagos state government, about 450,000MT of waste is dumped into the ocean bodies yearly. The waste being dumped affects the environment, the aquatic ecosystem as well as the livelihood of most fishermen. Recycling Pays of Educational Fees In response to both the issue of making education attainable and reducing the waste generated in Lagos, Merit International School, directed by Patrick Bemaraha, partnered with the Africa Clean-Up Initiative (ACI). This initiative allows parents who cannot afford school fees of $22 a term to pay with plastic bottles through an educational solution called Recycles Pay Educational Product. Recycles Pay is an initiative that aims to address educational, environmental, and climate-related issues. According to Alex Akhigbe (ACI's Executive Director), the NGO acts as a link between the school and the recyclers to eliminate 10,000 children from the streets next year. In an interview with Pulse Nigeria, Patrick Bemaraha says: “In the past, I used to have challenges collecting school fees from the parent but later realized that these parents genuinely did not have the money and want to make sure their children are educated. This development made us (the school management) after meeting with the parents and teachers association to key into the recycling waste initiative in exchange for school fees with African Clean-Up Initiative (ACI)." This initiative not only makes it easier for parents to pay the fees of their children, but it also reduces the amount of waste dumped into the oceans, as the plastic bottles which were seen as useless and unimportant have become of great worth and importance to people in Lagos. In the same interview with Pulse Nigeria, one of the mothers mentions how she has inoculated the habit of picking up bottles that people have left lying around her environment. With this initiative being introduced, it indirectly makes both the parents and their children responsible for their environment. Their responsibility impacts their environment positively. Therefore, they are making a change in their area of influence.