What is the Signal School?
Who ever heard of a classroom created out of a shipping container? Well, such a classroom sits proudly under a traffic signal at Thane, Mumbai.
Known as “the signal school,” this innovative initiative aims at educating the children who sell small things or beg to earn a living at traffic signals.
Signal Shala is a school that operates out of a shipping container under Teen Haat Signal flyover in Thane. It was formally inaugurated on June 15, 2017 and currently has 22 children who earlier used to sell knick-knacks or beg at the traffic signal.
“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.” says Batu, the CEO of Samarth Bharat Vyaspith (SBV).
SBV is an NGO registered in Pune, which was started eight years ago with the aim of working for the upliftment of the downtrodden. The organisation started this school after several months of in-depth research. This included four detailed surveys in different time slots at four major signals in Mumbai. The survey helped the team determine how many children are present at the signals on a regular basis. After this, they spoke to the children’s parents to find out more about their backgrounds and needs.
Signal Shala has four full-time teachers, one attendant and several volunteers who keep dropping by at regular intervals to help in some way or the other. They have come up with a suitable curriculum and distinct teaching methods keeping the needs of every child in mind.
Other than everyday classroom teaching, the teachers use software developed by Tata Technology that uses the audio-visual method to deliver the entire SEC curriculum from Classes 1 to 10. The shipping container has been revamped to make a classroom, a teachers’ room, and a toilet. The classroom can accommodate 40 children and the container has other facilities like fans, a pantry area, and a projector as well. The container has been made air tight because it gets very noisy under the flyover.
Many young kids sleep in the school every day. They are also bathed, groomed and given proper meals at the school. “We use these activities to inculcate good habits in students. For example, the children are taught to wash their hands before they begin to eat. Many of them also had the habit of spreading their hands out whenever the attendant would serve them food. We taught them not to do this. And when they notice such things, they realise that the school is not just a place where they are told to study but is also meant for their personal welfare,” says Batu.
What are other such initiatives to help poor children in India?