UPAY has started it’s FOOTPATH-SHALA initiative for the street children of Nagpur, who usually involved in begging at the Traffic signals. Every day UPAY volunteers go and teach these children at footpath only. at present we are having 10 centres for street children and 150 children are enrolled at UPAY centres. These are the children of beggars and street vendors who never went to school. Even young boys and girls of 17-20 years age, are not able to write their name forget about the formal education. UPAY is teaching them basic manners, moral education as well as teaching them reading and writing. Footpathshala runs at footpath and now running at major cities of India like , Nagpur, Delhi, Gurgaon, Mumbai and Pune.
§ Here is how it got started:
Walking down the city streets should bring a feel good experience as the cleaner the roads the more development it shows of that country. But as a matter of fact we don’t always feel so in our country. Reason being the filthy side-walk occupants.
So where do they come from?
Most of the time they are the migrants from other places or states moved to cities in search of a stable, secure life with a decent paying job. But ironically not all the times they come in reality with their dreams.
So what to do next?
They find their free of cost residence on the open side-walks or Footpaths. Theft, beggary, selling toys, crime & even prostitution remains as theirs choice of livelihood.
Then why not to consider education as the right path?
If children can bring money on daily basis that too without doing anything but making a pathetic face and body gesture & simply asking money person to person, stretching their tiny little palms then where comes the purpose of educating your offspring!
They don’t want to change their minds, what should WE do then?
Some of them are living there for 4-5 generations without any hope or with a miraculous hope from the government totally ignoring education or literacy. As a member of an integrated society & the responsible people under the government we must bring education and its perks to them.
Yes, it is the high time - if they can’t reach the school due to many reasons, then school must reach them.
§ That’s how the idea of FOOTPATH SHAALA got envisioned:
We the volunteers of UPAY_NGO (a Nagpur based year 2010 registered NGO for the quality education of under privileged rural & urban children started by group of engineers from IITs and NITs) went through a rigorous survey in Nagpur city & slum area in late 2014. We came across 700 nos. of such children struggling for their livelihood. With an intention of bringing these unfortunate children out of their misery, to bring them into the main stream life of our society, to inspire them with the idea of greater opportune world the concept of this unique initiative got launched on January 2015.
Today we proudly run 10 of such FOOTHPATH SHAALA centres in Nagpur, Mumbai, Pune & Gurgaon city area with the help of a group of keen volunteers.
§ What exactly do we do in FOOTPATH SHAALA centres?
Every day either in the morning or in the evening we take classes on the particular places of the sidewalks and our students being the local street children.
§ What courses do we offer?
ü The basic idea was to teach them how to talk to people, how to maintain their hygiene, how to behave with parents and relatives and other people, how to follow discipline in life, how to read basic languages, how to write them on paper, how to solve basic mathematics, how to draw. Even activities like drama, singing, team-building sports are also performed keeping all round development in mind. Apart from this we try to do everything to keep them away from begging in the streets & to keep them motivated with our initiative.
ü To engage them in normal life we celebrate a number of festivals with them like: Holi, Deepawali, Christmas, Independence Day, Gandhi jayanti etc.
ü To win their trust periodic health check-up camps, immunization-vaccination camps are also held.
§ Could we bring any change?
ü Naturally, we are able to convince and turn 70% of them towards schools.
ü They know how to keep hygiene & why bathing is an important daily activity.
ü Why talking to the elders with respect & Youngers with affection is a social necessity.
ü How chewing tobacco, consuming alcohol & smoking is injurious to health.
ü Why begging will lead to no future.
ü The most important: how education can bring them from footpaths to decent homes.
§ Do we face any challenges in making a good reputation?
o Convincing their parents is strenuous. They get easy money putting their wards on the money making line, then why to waste time in studying? Does study pay instantly? No. So counselling a parent is a tougher & bigger job.
o The road side Foothpath infrastructure is not that favourable for taking classes as no lighting is available, as a classroom environment is not available. So we came up with DC solar lighting arrangements, and a mobile library with an audio-visual learning system.
o Some time we face some local administrative problems regarding the place of the centres but we get helped most of the time.
o Funding is our most critical challenge. Most of the funds come out of our monthly salaries. Right from a pencil to organising any event it’s the volunteers who pay. Apart from our wages we get very little external help.
§ What is our mission?
By inseminating moral, ethical & social values in these children we hope for a day when not a single child will sleep hungry at footpath, when they will have books and pens instead of begging bowls in their hands, when they will get ready in the morning to go to school not to some traffic signal for begging, not to some dhaba or restaurant for cleaning the utensils, not to some street for picking up the rags.
§ Where do we see ourselves in next 5 years down the line?
In next 5 years UPAY’s Footpath Shaala initiative will enrol all the street children into schools in Nagpur, Pune, Mumbai, Gurgaon & Delhi area and make these cities beggar free simultaneously making provisions for higher education & jobs for them.
§ What is our long term Goal?
We dream of a beggar free, well educated & self-sufficient youthful country by next 20 years adding to the development of our nation.