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
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’.
My friend introduced me to SAI, where they allow kids to study in their office. After my school, I attend extra classes till 2 pm. I want to become an army officer and serve the nation. A government job will also mean better living conditions for my family. - Shaan Banarasi, one of the students
I live with my mother and elder brother. I have decided to go to Industrial Training Institute (ITI) after my SSC and want to become a mechanical engineer. I come here every day to study for at least three hours after my school, so that I can score well in my exams. - Sai Srivastav, another SSC student and resident of Kamathipura
I want to pursue my career in science. Education is very important for me, as it will give me a better future and allow me to change the future of my family as well. - Rakesh Sharma, who lives in a small house with his family and goes to the NGO and a library near his house for extra studies
I want to become a scientist. My brother left his education and my mother always tells me not to go down the same path. When I was in Std VIII, during the parent-teacher meet, the teacher told my parents and me about kids from red light areas who became successful after completing their education. My aim is to stand on my own feet and also change my parents’ life. - Rajan Rajput
(All names of students have been changed to protect their identity)