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Trade by Barter Makes a Comeback – Here is How African Parents are Paying for their Children’s Education

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.


Morit International School in Ajegunle, Lagos state allows parents pay for their children's education with plastic bottles (face2faceafrica)
Morit International School in Ajegunle, Lagos state allows parents pay for their children’s education with plastic bottles (face2faceafrica)

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.”


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The pre-launch of the project took place during the week in Lagos at MORIT International School, Ajegunle. This is the first adopted school of ACI for the RecyclesPay project. Parents of children in MORIT International School will have stipulated days they remit their recyclables for pick up by the Recyclers. According to the Proprietor of MORIT International School, Ajegunle, Mr. Patrick Mbamarah, most parents in their school have been having difficulty paying school fees of their children each term. This he complained is affecting the growth of the school. “Our school fee is Four Thousand Naira (N4,000) yet parents still find it challenging to pay. This contributes to us not duly attending to the needs of our teachers. But with RecyclesPay which allows parents to pay school fees using their accumulated PET bottles, Aluminum cans, and/or Cartons. We are optimistic that parents inability of paying or delay in payment of school fees will be a thing of the past.” Mr. Patrick also stated that “his vision for starting the school is to give children in his community equal opportunity of quality education as their counterpart in highbrow communities. But parents’ inability to pay school fees due to economic challenge in the country is discouraging his effort.” “I appreciate African Clean-Up Initiative for this amazing eco-friendly solution. It will help parents in low income communities like ours keep up with the payment of their children school fees and also contribute to us keeping our environment clean,” he pointed. Talking about how MORIT came to be the first school to be adopted in Ajegunle, Mr. Alex Akhigbe, the Chief Environmental Officer of ACI said: “Mr. Mbamarah, a lover of the environment is always passionate about environmental sustainability, so it was easier proffering an eco-friendly solution to the issue of poor payment of school fees in his school.” “Aside him volunteering at environmental events, he also has encouraged his 9 year old son, Timothy to become a waste collector. The young man is already saving for his university education from recyclables he gets from the street, school, or events” he explained. Parents of MORIT International School, Aje


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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 labor in exchange for tuition-free education for their daughters (cocoa360)Parents volunteer labor in exchange for tuition-free education for their daughters (cocoa360)

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.


Parents volunteer labor in exchange for tuition-free education for their daughters (cocoa360)Parents volunteer labor in exchange for tuition-free education for their daughters (cocoa360)

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.


Written by How Africa

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