We can all recall the golden days when our parents used to tell us the tales of how their parents went to school. These were stories of the times when, schools were not commercial centres meant for entertainment and popular branding, but, tales of a time when schools were simply a place of learning, and in all probability, under the peepal tree in the presence of a guru. For them, the idea of a school was simple. It was not a fancy high rise building with world class facilities, but the presence of a guru, a shishak and a welcoming atmosphere, which completed the idea of a school.
We have all heard how government schools don’t have the best facilities and lack even the most basic infrastructure. This led, Juin Dutta, the president of the Srotoshwini Trust to initiate the idea of a ‘Footpath Paathshala’ which runs on the footpath opposite MSU BBA College, Vadodara, Gujarat. Here, the kids living on the streets become the sincere students and volunteers play the role of wonderful teachers and mentors.
She explains that this journey started in May 2013. They started teaching kids, who were gathered by Mahavir International, at the Hill Memorial School. Over time, they have started one more paathshala in Sayajigunj near Parshuram Bhatta Road which now has 45 kids.
Here, the kids are taught to read and write in Gujarati. The main emphasis is put on teaching ethics, morals and good human values to the kids along with making them learn to be more sensitive towards things.
This patshala has changed the lives of many children who would otherwise dwell on streets and loiter away their time. Meena, a six-year-old girl who used to be extremely shy and timid, is now naughty, talkative and full of confidence after coming in contact with Footpath Paathshala. Ajay, another kid, dreams of going to Australia for higher education and also says that he will nurture kids under him when he grows up, just like his teachers are doing.
Juin Dutta says “Being with these kids is like being in a different world. Never have I been so happy, like I am now. Teaching these kids gives a new perspective and makes us even more sensitive towards things. You start thinking twice before going to a Bistro to eat.”
Juin Ma’am and her team have been encouraged by many passerby citizens who not only appreciate their work but also come forward to whole heartedly donate bags, stationery, etc. for the kids. However, there is still a huge requirement of people who can volunteer to become teachers and mentors for the kids and contribute to this initiative.
The ideology behind the patashala is the idea of separating self from others. It’s about inculcating a sense of kindness and giving back to the world, all that it has given to us. This is indeed a selfless venture, where, the thought of providing help for other people has more value than the old age principle of ‘me, mine and myself’.
We hope that ‘Footpath Paathshala’ is successful in all its endeavours and we wish it the very best and encourage more people to act as change agents and get involved in making a difference in the life of these kids and their own.