Have you ever noticed a problem that you couldn’t figure out how to fix? Dr. Aboubacar Kampo has. He was living in Côte d’Ivoire. That’s a country in Africa. Plastic is a major problem there. Very little of it gets recycled . “How can we transform plastic into something useful?” Kampo wondered.
Kampo works for UNICEF. That’s the United Nations Children’s Fund. He asked his friends for help. “We googled, looked for research, and then I stumbled across a company in Colombia,” he said. Colombia is a country in South America.
Conceptos Plásticos is the company that Kampo found online. It recycles plastic. It turns the plastic into big, Lego-like bricks.
It uses them to build schools and homes for people in need. “Conceptos Plásticos gave us a solution,” Kampo says. It also gave him an idea. He thought the company could help with more than just the plastic problem. It could also improve access to education.
More than 1½ million children in Côte d’Ivoire don’t go to school. One reason? There aren’t enough classrooms. For kids who do go to school, classrooms are overcrowded .
In 2018, UNICEF built its first classrooms out of recycled plastic in Côte d’Ivoire. At press time, it had built 42 classroom there. It plans to build 528 by the end of 2021.
How do kids like the project? “They love it,” Kampo says. “When we build a classroom, we build it with the community.”
Sophie Chavanel works for UNICEF. She remembers the first new classroom built from plastic in Côte d’Ivoire. Children gathered in the middle, “really tight, the same way they had before. The teacher said, ‘No! Now we have a big classroom. You can move! You can dance!’ It made a big difference in the quality of education.”