Just 150 households make Aasti one of the smallest villages Magic Bus runs its programmes in. The village is in the Bhadravati block, district Chandrapur, Maharashtra. Not surprisingly, most villagers are from the Scheduled Caste (Dalit) or Other Backward Caste (OBC), historically disadvantaged groups. Together with a third group the Constitution of India calls the Scheduled Tribes, these communities form 60% of India’s 1.4 billion strong population.
The only occupation available is in farming, which is a seasonal activity in Aasti. Most villagers work as daily wage workers.
The village has limited infrastructure but most locals count themselves lucky, since they have a primary and a secondary school, a primary healthcare centre (PHC) and access to clean drinking water. Both the school and the PHC are free of cost, under the Government’s Right to Education Act 2009 and the government funded public health system.
13-year-old Bharti has been with the Magic Bus programme since the last three years.
Both her parents are agricultural labourers, working in the field of others. Employment being seasonal, the entire family of five subsists on a meager Rs. 6000 on months their parents are employed. In other months, even this amount is hard to come by.
Since her parents would leave early for the field, the household chores would be largely left on Bharti and her elder sister. Her elder sister’s health did not support the heavy household chores so Bharti did it all on her own. She often missed school and also Magic Bus sessions, which are held during the morning hours in her locality. It needs mention here that Bharti’s school is almost 5kms away from her locality in the adjoining village. This made it all the more difficult for her to balance her household chores with going to school.
Noticing her frequent absence from Magic Bus sessions, the youth mentor and community youth leader decided to pay her parents a visit. It was then that they came to know of the problems in her household. Both of them spoke to her parents at length, emphasizing the need for Bharti to get educated. ‘If Bharti would not go to school she would not be able to earn enough to put an end to the regular struggle both of you undergo', they explained.
The next day Bharti came for the sessions and told youth mentor that she would start going to schools regularly from now onwards. She looked happy.
Bharti goes to school every day. Her parents work harder to ensure that the young girl gets time off to study and play instead of shouldering the heavy household responsibilities. They are convinced that Bharti can, one day, make life better for all of them.
Magic Bus initiated its Sports for Development session and advocacy work in Aasti on16th June2011, with Ranjana Ghanode and Bharat Belekar as the Community Youth Leader, and with 52 children.
The members of the Panchayat in Aasti have been very supportive of the Magic Bus sessions. They have fully cooperated with, and have helped to get the grounds for, community meetings and various tournaments. In other off-the-field activities, our staff and volunteer mentors have conducted door-to-door meetings, which aim at establishing good working relations between volunteer mentor and parent, all towards building an enabling environment for each child to learn and grow well.
At sessions which last for 2 hours and are divided into 3 parts, Magic Bus interacts with children using the following structure:
• 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