Satish Pawar’s family came to Mumbai from Beed district in Maharashtra in the year 1997 with the hope of finding work in the big city and building a better future for themselves. But little did they know that they’d have to spend their lives on the streets for years and generations to come.
Together with his wife and four children, 35-year-old Satish now lives under Teen Haat Signal flyover in Thane.
The family sells gajras (flower garlands) at the traffic signal for a living. While initially the kids didn’t even think about education or school, things changed for the better this year. “Batu sir came to us one day and we came to know that a school will be opening right here,” says Satish, referring to Batu Sawant, the CEO of Samarth Bharat Vyaspith (SBV).
It is an NGO that has started India’s first registered Signal School meant for children living and working near traffic signals in Mumbai. It is called Signal Shala.
“Kalpana, Nikita, Neha and, Suraj – all four of my kids go to school now. We had never imagined that something like this would ever happen in our lives. It has been three months and I have seen many changes in the way my kids understand life. They are excited about going to school each day. We never knew much about the importance of education before this school came up. But we feel good now because the children have started concentrating on their studies and it will be great if they become something in life and improve their standard of living,” says Satish.
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While Kalpana and Nikita are 13 and 11 years old, Neha and Suraj are younger.
“They tell us that they will never beg at the signal anymore. They are ready to sell gajras or do some business, but they have helped us understand that begging is not good,” says the proud father. Talking about why his family had to relocate, he says, “There was no scope of agriculture or farming in the village. We didn’t get work or any source of livelihood. We started living here because we could earn Rs. 100-150 every day and could arrange for something or the other to eat. We don’t have any home here. The authorities keep shooing us away from one place then from another and we have been living on the streets for almost 18 years now. My wife and I make gajras and then we sell them at the signal.”
According to Batu, parents of all the children at the school feel that kids should study properly and should try to break away from the kind of life they have been living till now. “They ensure that kids definitely go to schools and spend most of their time there. In fact, some of the parents often suggest that we should start residential facilities at Signal Shala for the kids to stay in a learning environment all day,” he concludes.
This Teacher’s Day, The Better India is supporting a bunch of passionate teachers who want to make a difference in the lives of street kids and help them get access to good quality education too. You can do your bit to help India’s first registered “Signal School” help 36 kids who have never been to school before, study and learn like all of us.
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