Bhatsa Nagar is a small tribal village, situated right next to the Bhatsa Dam (Bhatsa Lake is one of the 6 major water sources for the commercial capital city of Mumbai). 70 to 80 families from this village earn their livelihood by working as labourers at nearby Aatgaon, or collecting firewood, honey and herbs from forest area adjacent to the village and selling these in the Aatgaon.
In November 2012, Magic Bus started work in Bhatsa village. Shailesh Rajput is the first community youth leader of this village, ably supported by staff members Vicky Singh and Noornabee Shaikh. Magic Bus works for 35 children from Bhatsa Nagar.
“When we started, going to school was not really popular in this village,” says Noornabee. “After more than a year, now, we can see children are attending school regularly. We made it a rule: anyone who attends the Magic Bus session must go to school.” Noornabee’s work on the ground is supported by the entire team’s advocacy work with the entire village, even children and parents who are not directly on the programme. They go door-to-door, starting conversations around common themes like the importance of education and its relation to children’s future prospects.
Sessions are conducted on Wednesdays in the late afternoons, with 70 children. 3 volunteer mentors (Community Youth Leaders) conduct the sessions. All were first trained in working with children as well as the Magic Bus sport for development curriculum before starting work. “The curriculum is based on the constructivist learning pedagogy which assumes that a learner can construct her/his own knowledge with the help of a More Knowledgeable Other (MKO) who can be both a teacher and/or peers,” says Gitanjali Singh, who heads the curriculum development team at Magic Bus. “Learning happens through a process of experience, reflection, application and consolidation. The use of a metaphor makes it easier for the child to connect the activity with their real life experiences and thus makes learning more relevant. Activities are designed such that children are engaged in a manner that they imbibe the learning themselves rather than someone enforcing the learning outcomes on them.”
Key messages that children have been given include:
• The correlation between formal education and job prospects. If we complete school, our chances of getting jobs and/or getting into higher education options rise exponentially. Completing school is the firsts step towards breaking out of the poverty cycle.
• Healthy habits and how common ailments can be avoided with the adoption of simple habits such as washing hands before eating.
Magic Bus sessions here are conducted weekly and are divided into three parts:
• Warm up: The development goal is introduced using interactive activities
• Main activity: The development goal is reinforced using sports and activities
• Review: A discussion is facilitated to draw parallels to real-life situations and sum up the learning objectives