Shipping Container Schools for Street Children
With up to one million children living on the streets of India’s cities who have to work to help their families make ends meet, many hit a poverty trap long before they even get to adulthood. Unable to get an education they cannot get the skills to break free of poverty for the rest of their lives, breaking out of the cycle of poverty. There may be a solution in the Signal Schools – schools set up in shipping containers near busy road junctions where children sell trinkets to drivers.
New laws in India guarantee children a free education until they turn 14. In theory this takes away one of the major barriers to education in the cost. However, families that are in a desperate financial situation can’t afford for their children to not be economically productive. There are also tens of thousands of orphans in India who need to fend for themselves. There is no effective financial safety net for people who fall on hard times in a country of more than one billion citizens.
It is estimated that due to these laws, the literacy rate in India went from 65% in 2001, to 73% in 2011 but street children still missed out. When the laws came in, millions of families sent their children to school but the kids rapidly dropped out, with their parents needing them to get earning again.
The Signal School in Thane, near Mumbai is a school set up in a 30ft shipping container near a busy road junction. It can accommodate up to 27 children and can give them a basic education in literacy and numeracy – certainly enough for them to develop some more technical skills and perhaps get better jobs as they grow up.
Speaking to Barcroft TV, one 12 year old whose mum had died and father had been sent to prison said, “I want to become someone when I grow up and that’s why I come to school to study. I like reading, studying and drawing.” The shipping container has a library containing hundreds of books for the children and a teacher’s office.
Unlike India’s state schools, children who have been enrolled attend regularly. This is because the school is open between 10:30 and 17:30 every day. Children can work through rush hour selling their goods to drivers in their cars in the morning, attend school and then head back out to work in the evening to help their families. While these amount to long days for kids as young as six years old, it means that they aren’t torn between the needs of their families and their very basic needs to develop as children.
Since many of the children are from families that have migrated to Thane from the countryside they often lack a basic knowledge of hygiene or access to medical care. The school teaches them these essential lessons in life, and also arranges for the boys to have a haircut every month, as well as seeing a doctor to manage their ailments. This tackles the problem of children dying from preventable diseases and also enables them to look presentable should they seek more skilled work when they grow up.
The shipping container Signal School has another important feature – a toilet. One of the most dangerous problems for people in India is a tradition of not using a flushing toilet and consequently many come in contact with excrement that carries some dreadful diseases. The toilet is a very important facet of the school as a result.
Speaking to the Better India website, Batu Sawant, the CEO of Samarth Bharat Vyaspith (SBV), an NGO that founded the project said, “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.”
Inspired by this shipping container school?
Buildings like the Signal School in Thane can be constructed quickly and effectively. Contact us now to discuss your options when it comes to building with recycled shipping containers – we can make modifications onsite or if it’s more complex we’ve got access to a wide variety of specialists in the local community from architects, to builders who are experienced in construction with shipping containers. Give our team a call or get a free quote.