We found that many of these people used to be farmers in rural Maharashtra and had migrated to the city because of droughts. They had come here looking for a better life but ended up living and working at the signals for the past 20-25 years For these kids and their parents, the signal is a place of business. They sell small items during peak traffic hours, and in the 4-5 hours in between, their parents send them to beg as well,” - Bhatu Sawant, founder of Signal Shala
Since its inception 2016 there are more than 40 students who attend the school currently. The school is located under the signal flyover, where a shipping container has been turned into a classroom. The set up has a management and staff strength of about 5 people that includes an art and crafts teacher and a sports teacher
Signal Shala intends to educate these street kids and make them ready for the mainstream school set up. Instead of just focussing on academic lessons, Signal Shala is also working on the all-round development of the kids. They have a newly built science lab, an arts and craft session, yoga and sports classes. Many young kids sleep in the school every day. They are also bathed, groomed and given proper meals at the school
Bhatu believes that one of the biggest impacts the school has had so far is that begging activity by the children has completely reduced and even 2 of their children have even gone to pass the 10th standard exams successfully and will soon be joining college. In the past 2 years this school has changed the lives of these children who were once beggars.
Bhatu now wants to expand to other signal's too -
"There are still 1000's of kids on the street who are begging in many other signals in Bombay and Thane"
He wants to set up new branches of the signal school so that he can reach to as many kids and give them the education they deserve. He requires funds and people's contribution for that.