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Building Schools Out of Plastic Bottles

By Gatien Aba

· Africa,Environment,Education
Young Cameroonian entrepreneur Gatien Aba talks about how he founded his company Eduke. Me  and how he aims to build schools mainly using plastic bottles and non-organic waste.

Gatien Aba talking about his initiative on TV

Photo from Gatien Aba

Before founding Eduke.Me, my co-founder Eric Franklin Kamdjo and I had an experience in another project called Ecole Sans Frontières (Schools without borders).

In 2014, I set up the non-profit initiative with the goal of recruiting volunteer teachers and assign them to schools in rural and conflict areas where there was a shortage of teaching staff. It was sort of creating a chain of volunteers in the educational field.

In 2016, we represented Cameroon at an international conference organized by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) in Azerbaijan. During a presentation, we were asked to propose sustainable solutions to tackle the problem of under-education faced by some French-speaking countries in Africa.

We started from the observation that the rate of under-enrollment among low-income families in Cameroon is high because of the marginalization of the poor, high costs of tuition fees, and learning methods not always being adequate. We proposed to set up a network of low-cost private social schools for children from poor families and to offer new pedagogical approaches.

After an acclaimed presentation and many pledges of funding obtained, back in Cameroon, we had the idea to put up our proposed project. From then on, we decided to move from "schools without borders", a humanitarian project, to Eduke.Me, a business project with a strong social impact.

It was not particularly easy because we initially counted on the promises of financing obtained during our trip to start our project.

After a good period of hibernation, it is in 2017 that we finally moved up a gear by officially creating Eduke.Me, a young private company, which is positioned in the education sector. With Eduke.Me, we propose as a solution the construction of schools based on recycled plastic materials that meet all national and international standards, in terms of architecture, ergonomics, equipment, pedagogy and expertise.

Working on the construction of one of the school

Photo from Gatien Aba

As for our schools, they are built with simple and eco-sustainable technology based on the principle of re-use. The eco-bricks that make up the school are actually recycled plastic waste filled with non-organic waste.

To date, the very first school is in progress. It is built in the department of Nyon and So'o, district of Dzeng, a semi-urban area. We have already acquired the plot of land. The architects went down to the site and made plans for construction. More than 10,000 plastics have already been collected with the support of a few friends and volunteers. The work is scheduled to be finished by the end of the year. The project is currently carried out under our own funds. If all goes as planned, we will open our capital to develop our network of schools in the localities of Kribi and Soa.

We have two major partners. The Boukarou incubator that accompanies us on the development of the project, and the American organization Hug It Forward which gives us technical support. Regarding our workforce, we are a team of 4 people, including the two co-founders, an environmentalist and a consulting engineer. We also rely from time to time on volunteers for certain activities. Team

Photo from Gatien Aba

I believe in participatory leadership where team members can use each other's strengths and skills to address individual weaknesses. The greatest leaders know their limits and are able to draw strength from themselves and those of others to compensate and reach all, their common goal.

For those who embark on entrepreneurship, focus on realistic goals that are less risky and require fewer requirements to enter the market. As the metaphor illustrates, "you can reap the same benefits by starting small and simple."

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