The daily amount of waste in Cairo is estimated to be 14,000 tons. Cairo relies on non-official street cleaners to rid of the waste. There are six major neighborhoods in Cairo where its residents work in gathering waste and they recycle 80% of the waste. Those neighborhoods are considered slum areas. The biggest slum area is in Al-Mokattom. The slum’s residents are about 60,000 people and the area is known as Waste Cleaners City.
The Waste Cleaners neighborhood suffers from poverty and the absence of educational opportunities. Many children work with their parents in collecting waste instead of going to school due to poverty, low income and the economic crisis. Since giving up schools is inevitable to those children, Spirit of Youth Association founded a nontraditional school in 2000 to raise child literacy among the waste cleaners through a non-traditional education system that depends on recycling. The campaign slogan is Education for Work and Making a Living. The school doesn’t have a strict schedule. It opens its doors from 9:00am to 8:00pm so students can come as their times allow.
Recycling School is an educational hall with an attached computer lab and a recycling machine at the back. The recycling machine was given to the school by an international company in order to dispose of used bottles so “Basement Factories” can’t reuse them.
The Recycling School education system depends on incorporating the basic educational formulas with the children’s skills and expertise in recycling. It teaches the children how to protect the environment and it introduce them to the concept of industrial security and occupational safety.
The Recycling school educational system was designed to bond the children with their work of collecting plastic bottles. The students buy plastic bottles from their parents and neighbors and bring the bottles to school. The students register the quantity, size and the price of the plastic bottles in a log, then sell them to the producing companies at a reasonable price. Or they may recycle the plastic bottles by crushing them, then sell them to recycling workshops in the neighborhood.
The registration log of the plastic bottles is used as an educational tool to teach children reading, writing and math problems. This way the non-formal education is connected to Education for Work and Making a Living.
The school’s priority is to teach children of waste cleaners how to collect waste safely to avoid infections and diseases by wearing safety clothing and using safety tools. This is a foundation of reducing diseases that spreads among the waste cleaners’ community.
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Connecting non-formal education with work and earning wages is one of the qualities of the program, which encourages the parents of the waste cleaners’ community to enroll their children in the school. The school’s flexible schedule allows students to continue working alongside their parents while attending school in their free time.
Parents all over the world are struggling to fight poverty, so it is not uncommon that children are required to work to help provide for the family. There is a difficult cycle of living in poverty and lack of a proper education. The right to education, especially in impoverished nations, is situated within a much larger need for economic development in a given region. In this context, addressing the living wages and employment opportunity of the parents is critical to ensuring children their right to education. Article 32 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child protects children from performing any work that is may interfere with the child’s education. A child’s ability to realize their right to an education is contingent on the parents’ ability to earn a living wage. Activist should consider how the problem they are trying to solve is situated in, or a consequence of, larger issues.