With the aim to change his life for the better, Rajan Rajput, (name changed) travels from the notorious red-light area, Kamathipura, all the way to the BMC school in Byculla, where he takes extra coaching to prepare for his Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examination.

SSC students from red-light areas put in extra study hours every day and hope to get better marks in the upcoming board exams
SSC students from red-light areas put in extra study hours every day and hope to get better marks in the upcoming board exams

Just like Rajput, nine other students, five appearing for SSC and four for Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) exams are studying hard for their boards exams. They travel to the BMC school that also holds the office of Social Activities Integration (SAI), an NGO that provides them a safe haven to study in peace.

The NGO was started in 2009 under SIDACTION from France, with the mission to educate children. SAI previously had two rooms on rent, one in Worli and the other in Kamathipura itself, where the children from nearby areas could study without distractions. However, in December 2012, they had to vacate the places as the rent doubled and they were unable to get additional funding.

When the NGO moved their study area to Byculla, they hired a van that runs in two shifts to bring students to the school, where they are also given snacks and proper food. Vinay Vasta, president of SAI NGO, said, “Our funds stopped in 2012-13 and at the same time the rent increased at the two places.

We now bring students to our office to study and are planning to allow girls to come and study here in the near future. We are conducting a survey to find out the number of girl students in the area and the number of dropouts who we can help get back to school again.” While speaking to MiD DAY, the SSC students were not comfortable in revealing where they lived. One claimed that he is from Nagpada, while the other shortened his area of residence as ‘KP’.