Education for all gets green light in Thane | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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Education for all gets green light in Thane

Dropouts, street children get a chance to study in healthy environment; From 15 students 2 years ago, school has grown to 48 students

mumbai Updated: Apr 22, 2018 00:53 IST
Megha Pol
The signal school has five teachers, and has a book and a toy library, a computer and a nursery classroom.
The signal school has five teachers, and has a book and a toy library, a computer and a nursery classroom. (PRAFUL GANGURDE/HT)

A year ago, 12-year-old Shankar Pawar was happy begging at traffic signals. He used to see children going to the signal school at Teen Hath Naka but didn’t want to join them.

Around the same time, Shankar met with an accident and injured his leg near the school. When his kin tried to take advantage of his broken leg by pressurising him to beg, the school stepped in and treated the boy. As the boy recuperated in the one-room school, he started enjoying the class.

Now, he is happy in school.

Shankar said, “I lived in the school for six months after the accident and today I know that I recovered because of my school. I want to study and complete my education.”

Shankar is one of the many children whose life changed after they joined the civic-run signal school.

Built in a container two years ago, the school has grown from 15 to 48 students. Two of its older students, who were dropouts, appeared for the recently concluded SSC Board exams.

The signal school, which started in one container two years ago at the Teen Hath Naka, now has a book and toy library, a computer, nursery classroom, washrooms and robotic equipment.

Shraddha Dandwate is among the five teachers at the signal school since it opened. Her main challenge was to get the students’ attention. “Initially, all of them dozed off. So, we had to adopt new teaching methods and be more animated.”

The effort of the teachers is visible. The children, who used to the school has changed the children’s concepts of health, hygiene, behaviour and their approach towards life.

Read more: Street kids from Thane signal school confident about faring well in SSC exams

The students, aged three to 19 years, have become disciplined and have fixed a time table for themselves. They attend school from 10am to 6pm every day and are seen completing their homework under the streetlight.

Rekha Pawar, 12, was a shy girl and didn’t talk to anyone when she enrolled in school.

Today she is the one to take initiative for school projects and dreams of becoming a teacher.

“I used to live in my village in Latur while my parents and brother were in Thane. They got me here few years ago and I started selling toys at signal while my brother attended school. After the signal school opened, my parents enrolled me here. I love languages and want to become a teacher,” said Rekha.

Ask about their ambition and the students are divided in two groups — one half wants to become a teacher and the other want to join the police force.

Dandwate said, “These two professions signify power to them. Their life revolves around us teachers. They have been raised around traffic signals and see cops wield their power on the world around them.”

The parents of students who used to live on footpath at the signal have got temporary accommodation by the corporation near the Thane Mental Hospital, so that the students will have proper homes.

Setting new goals

Two students of the signal school appeared for the SSC board examinations this year. Mohan Kale, 17 and Dashrath Pawar, 18 were the first to appear for the board exams from this school and both are confident of clearing the exams with flying colours.

Kale said, “I am helping my parents sell things at the signal as it is school vacation. However I also make it a point to devote time to the school students by teaching the nursery or lower class students. This is my way to repay the school.” Pawar also joins him in this noble cause.

School has set up a new model

The Samarth Bharat Vyaspeeth NGO which started the school was unsure of its success two years ago. Bhatu Sawant, CEO of Samarth Bharat Vyaspeeth, said, “We had four major concerns — will the parents allow the children to stop earning and go to school. There was major language barrier as most of them spoke only tribal language. Can we make them capable enough to enter the main stream school and will the students who read in signal school be accepted in main stream colleges or other schools? All these concerns have been resolved in the last two years with the government too accepting the school.”

The chief minister in the 2017 winter session said the school model should be replicated in other cities to provide education to the street students. “Even the education minister liked the concept and is positive on replicating it. Thane’s signal school has set a model for education of 10 lakh street children across the state,” Sawant said.

No more junk food

For the first few days, students came to school only to sleep, as the school was comfortable than the streets. Most students had rat bites sleeping on the road. They hardly took bath or cleaned properly after washroom visits.

School teachers had to teach them the basics on how to take bath, use soap and a toothbrush. They often suffered from stomach ailments owing to food and water sources. Most of them had calcium and protein deficiency.

The school started providing them with healthy options from nutritious multigrain ladoos, chikkis, khichdi and daliyas. The students have shifted from junk to nutritious food.