Kochi is a small village of just 124 households and 515 people, in the Bhadravati Block, Chandrapur, Maharashtra. People live mostly in mud-and-daub structures that offer minimal weatherproofing. Farming is the main occupation. People grow rice, cotton, wheat and soybean. A small number work in the gun powder factories nearby.
Residents of Kochi are from some of India's poorest communities – the Kunbi (an OBC caste), the Mahad (an SC caste), the Gond (a tribal group) and the Dhanghar (an NT caste). The SC, ST, OBC and NT communities are counted in the Indian Constitution as among those that are historically disadvantaged. Special schemes and reservations in educational institutions and in Government jobs aim at correcting this disadvantage. However, access to such Government benefits remains severely limited.
A single Zila Parishad Primary School serves children up to the age of 10. The habitation is not considered large enough to have a Primary Healthcare Centre. This service provides a network of free local clinics that are lifelines in poor villages like Kochi. An ANM (Auxiliary Nurse Midwife) comes on monthly rounds, and gives basic medical advice and treatment.
Magic Bus started work in Kochi in 2010, with 49 children: 27 girls and 22 boys, with two volunteer mentors: 22 year old Praful Jamdade, and 21 year old Mangesh Khirsagar. The beginning was not easy, recalls our Magic Bus team lead here, Parmeshwar Malwahi. "I approached the school first. Hoping to get a group started in the school premises. Since our approach is not something familiar to the teachers and key influencers in Kochi, I was directed to talk to the Sarpanch (village headman). I went on to have very detailed conversations with not just the Sarpanch, but also with the school teachers. I talked about Magic Bus and how it had incubated this approach towards using sports and the outdoors as a way of bringing about serious, developmental changes in children's attitudes and behaviour. People's curiosity was piqued when we finally held a demo session." The demo session follows the logic of 'show, don't tell' and all Magic Bus staff and volunteers avow that it is an opinion-changer.
9-year-old Sharda Hanuman Turankar is in the third standard of the Zila Parishad School, Kochi. Her family consists of 4 members and her father works as a labourer in nearby farm. Her mother works as a domestic worker.
“Sharda had an issue with her involvement in school and with friends – she was withdrawn and didn’t seem interested in school,” recounts Pramod, the Magic Bus staff member in charge of the program here.
Sharda joined Magic Bus session on 2015, and over a period of time, became one of the group’s most engaged members. “One of the pillars on our programme is participation and we made sure children like Sharda were optimally engaged using a variety of tools and techniques such as our activity-based curriculum and meetings with the family.”
Gradually, as her level of participation increased, Sharda’s teachers noted a palpable difference. “There is a greater interest levels in class now,” they say.
Sharda’s future goals are also becoming clearer. “I want to study hard and grow up to be a doctor,” she says.
A few of the areas of behaviour change addressed by Magic Bus volunteers and mentors include:
Magic Bus sessions here 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
Photographs from Magic Bus areas of intervention are used for representation only.