Signal school a golden ray of hope

British Asia News Network

By Nisha Karavadra

Mumbai, March 25: Nestled under a busy flyover in one of the busiest cities in the world sits a large shipping container. It is home to a unique school – Signal Shala.

Three years ago, these young street children in Mumbai spent their days knocking on the windows of cars stopped at the traffic signals, selling flowers and balloons all day to provide for their families. Living under a bridge in impoverished conditions, the children would eat scraps of food left discarded nearby, and had little opportunity of ever escaping the poverty they were born into. The children not only missed out on schooling, but also their childhood.

Local journalist Bhatu Sawant decided that if the children could not attend the local schools, he would bring the school to them. As a result, the school is located in the exact spot where the children used to spend their days working. Not only did these children miss out on the formative stages of their education but also of their own childhood. They had little opportunity to escape the poverty they were born into.  

These children come from impoverished backgrounds where education is viewed as a luxury not a right. Initially, the parents were reluctant to send their children to the school as this would ultimately affect their only source of income. Children could earn 100 rupees a day whilst working at the signals. Through their arduous efforts, Bhatu and the teachers, spent time in the community raising awareness for why it was imperative for their children to attend as it would help them in the long run. 

Once the pupils started to attend, the school was thrown a curve ball. Before they could offer a curriculum centred on teaching and learning, they needed to address the barriers to learning. Firstly, the pupils were not versed in the local language - they spoke a tribal dialect understood only by their families. Basic hygiene skills were missing – and the children were heavily malnourished which affected their concentration during lessons.

Currently, the school has over thirty pupils on roll. Signal Shala provides daily nutritious meals, a clean uniform, basic sanitation facilities and an affective learning curriculum. The school doesn’t just provide an education; it cares for the children holistically, ensuring they have the best possible chance in life. Learning is made memorable by providing pupils with long-lasting experiences through school excursions. Most recently, a nursery provision was created. The school also offers medical treatment and counselling for those who had been affected by extreme trauma, such as losing their parents. 

Signal Shala is an NGO, and relies on generous donations to support the school, these are vital in ensuring the good work continues. Recent donations to the school meant they were able to obtain a second shipping container to build two new classrooms and a science laboratory. The school also has its own mini sports field where children are introduced to physical activity and yoga. Despite these small wins, there have been moments where the school has faced severe financial hardships-the Head teacher was unable to pay his teachers for months. 

The teachers show great dedication from 10am till 7pm they provide care and support over and beyond that of a normal teacher. Many of the children have learning and behavioural difficulties, and the teachers have the mammoth task of educating pupils about basic life skills and equipping them with skills to escape their circumstances. Yet, despite the financial difficulties they ensured the school continued to run – a testament to their dedication and generosity.

Signal school is an innovative concept initialised by Samarth Bharat Vyaspith along with Thane Municipal Corporation, to provide education to underprivileged children living on signals in Thane, Maharashtra. The only aim of SBV is to make these children capable to adjust themselves in the mainstream world. Signal school provides children with various facilities with proper schooling.

There are people around the world who take these inspirational steps to better the world for people around them, the underprivileged; we could follow in these inspirational steps.

If you are interested in learning more about the journey or wishing to donate to Signal Shala – please click on the link below.


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