If one passes by the Sadbhavnagar police chowky in Vatva, one is sure to notice a group of students sitting under the roof, studying.
Virat Shah, a 45-year-old engineer quit his posh Dubai job of Rs. 3.5 lakh to take care of nine footpath schools with over 200 children.
Shah is an instrumentation and control engineer, who now imparts quality education to these children from economically backward areas. He enrolls them in schools, at times even acting as their local guardian.
He teaches tuition for free in the evenings and encourages them to strive for a better future through his selfless devotion.
Shah was inspired to take this initiative because of the troubles he himself faced, during his college days. While he was pursuing his education at LD Engineering College he had a tough time availing tuition due to lack of financial aid.
The other motivation was his father who used to work in a mill factory. He would never return anyone empty-handed from his door.
After finishing his studies, Shah worked in several Indian companies and married Trupti who is a chemical engineer. He worked outside India for five years after that and has now earned a decent amount. He also has two daughters Aparna and Partitha.
Since he returned to India in 2010, he has been pursuing his dream of educating children from the slums. His journey began in September 2014 when he persuaded 10 parents from Isanpur to allow him to teach their children who were not going to school. In 2015 he took them to the nearby municipal school with the hope of getting them admitted. However, the principal refused. It was then that he became their guardian and took up this daunting and challenging task of educating them.
Today Shah claims to have nine such footpath schools. He has recently also registered them under the Sarvodaya Group Trust. His friends aided him in constructing makeshift shades as classrooms and providing medical checkup for every child. Shah also provides food to those students who attend his school.
Shash aims to create a school one day, that does not charge any tuition fee.
Rukshana Ansari, the mother of Shah’s student Sahil said during her interview that, “before joining the centre, Sahil used to laze around but at present, he goes to school and studies.” She was grateful that her son had received this opportunity.
To ensure that children do not relapse into vagrancy, Shah has made it mandatory at all his centre for them to seek permission before taking any leave.