Trade by barter makes a comeback - here is how Africa parents are paying for their children's education

The trade-by-barter system remains useful and relevant even in the 21st century.

Happy school children

Many decades ago, it was not uncommon for people to pay for goods and services with a system called trade by barter. This was used during pre-colonial Africa to obtain food and various services. Things changed when money was introduced.

Its been several years later and this seemingly ancient system is still thriving. Certain African countries like Nigeria and Ghana have found a way to put it to good use in their educational sectors. These places allow parents to trade goods or services if they are unable to provide cash for their children's schooling.

Here is how African parents are paying for their children's education without using cash:

Nigeria (Plastic Bottles)

The RecyclesPay Educational Project, a campaign under the African Clean Up Initiative (ACI), has made it possible for parents to trade in used plastic bottles for their children's school fees.

Morit International School in Ajegunle, Lagos state was the first to accept this initiative. Here, parents simply gather used bottles, clean them before handing them over to the school management on designated days. 

The school then calls in Wecyclers, the recycling company attached to the project, who weigh and pay according to the number of bottles received.

Alex Akhigbe, Chief Environmental Officer of the ACI, explains how the system works. 

In his words, "The recyclers weigh the plastic bottles and pen the kilogramme each parent brought. A kilogramme goes for N20 to N25 per kilo, depending on the recycler. If a parent comes with 10kilo, he or she will get N200 to N250. It looks like a huge effort is required. However, it's valuable to the environment and parents struggling to pay their children's fees."

This brilliant method solves two problems at the same time - education for kids in low-income schools and reduce/solve Nigeria's plastic waste problems.

The Recyclepays Educational programme has since been adopted by other schools in Lagos state.

Ghana (Labour)

Unlike Nigeria where goods are traded for education, Ghanaians trade their services instead. The Tarkwa Breman Girls' School (TBGS) is one of such schools.

Parents volunteer their services on a 10-acre cocoa farm in exchange for tuition-free education for their daughters.

This is done through Cocoa360, a community-based organization founded by Shadrack Frimpong.

Zimbabwe (Goats/labour)

The trade by barter system is adopted here so parents can pay for their children's fees with goats. This started sometime in 2017.

It was later made official by the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Dr Lazarus Dokora. Now, schools, markets and parents simply come up with a conflict-free arrangement that works everyone.

Some parts of the country have a different system - one that allows parents to offer their services as a form of payment for their children's fees.

These ingenious methods give underprivileged kids access to education regardless of their poor family background.

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