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Wheels of change: Magic Bus is helping the youth break the cycle of poverty through skills training

Roshni Balaji
posted on 12th January 2019
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On National Youth Day, let’s look at Magic Bus, which is working with youngsters to develop the the skills they need to pursue higher education and get a job.

India is one of the youngest countries in the world, with the youth (15-24 years) constituting 19.1 percent of the total population as per Census 2011. We celebrate National Youth Day on January 12 every year, acknowledging the immense contribution made by the youth of our country. But this day also gives us an opportunity to reflect upon some of the issues plaguing them. And one of the major struggles that today’s generation faces is finding a suitable job to sustain themselves.

MagicBus, a youth-centred education programme, came into being with the aim of bringing about a change by focussing on training underprivileged children and youngsters with the skills they need to pursue higher education and seek employment. Magic Bus is currently working with more than 3,75,000 people.

The inception 

Matthew Spacie founded Magic Bus in 1999.

In 1998, Matthew Spacie began coaching a few children and youngsters on the streets of Mumbai voluntarily in his free time while in the city as the COO of Cox N Kings. A young player from India’s National Rugby Team, Matthew Spacie, used to practise daily opposite Mumbai’s famous Fashion Street, a hub for street children. One day he invited the boys over for a game. As time passed by, Matthew began to notice positive behavioural changes in the boys — direct result of the mentored team activity they were part of. These boys, who had grown up on the streets, became more goal-oriented and wanted to better themselves and their attitudes towards others.

Mathew discovered that the growing influence of this approach not only helped pull these children away from impoverished backgrounds, but also taught them how to challenge their current realities and overturn their obstacles into a route for wellbeing and success. That was the beginning of the journey of Magic Bus. Over the next 10 years, this crystallised into a formal pedagogy that is now known as the Magic Bus Sport for Development curriculum, an approach that would go on to redefine the lives of many youth.

Some of the children associated with Magic Bus.

Founded in 1999, Magic Bus is headquartered in Mumbai and works with some of India’s poorest children and young individuals. Some of the first communities they began working with were in Bombay Port Trust (BPT) and Dharavi. Thereafter, Magic Bus has slowly expanded operations and today works in 22 states and 72 districts across the country.

Jayant Rastogi, CEO of Magic Bus, India, tells YourStory about the impact the programmes have made on people’s lives. He said,

“Our operations and footprint have grown over the years. As per the research we undertook, there was a 37 percent increase in those attending school regularly, less than five 5 percent of girls dropping out with respect to our programmes. To add to that, 75 to 80 percent of the youth who enroll for our programmes successfully get a job.”

Here are some of the other training programmes the organisation runs:

1. Youth Livelihood Programme

India's unemployment rate as of December, 2018, stood at a whopping 7.38 percent as per the report published by Conference for Industry and Education Collaboration (CIEC). This marks an increase by 3.86 percent from the previous year.

Magic Bus tackles growing unemployability by training the youth until they are job-ready through its ‘Youth Livelihood Programme’. The purpose of the programme is to bridge the gap between aspirations of youngsters and  the market opportunities by offering career counselling, mentorship, and holding leadership exercises and vocational training sessions.

Vikas was convinced that all doors to employment were closed. Living in Chamle village of Bhiwandi, 36km away from the city of Mumbai, he did not have the means to go to college. His family of five was surviving on a total income of Rs 5,000 a month. He then heard about the Magic Bus Livelihoods Centre 8km from his house. He joined the programme immediately.

Vikas took up courses in speaking English as well as digital and financial literacy. After two months of training, he started attending job interviews. He joined as an RO technician at a water treatment plant, which offered him Rs 9,000 per month. After six months, Vikas also received an offer to intern with Coca-Cola, which was willing to pay him Rs 7,000 a month. Presently, the 22-year-old works for both the companies and is earning a total of Rs 17,000.

"I can sense this as a beginning, at a point of my life when I had completely given up hope. Now, our conditions have improved. We don't need to worry about two square meals a day. I still see this as a beginning. I want to work more, see more of the world and do better with each job," he says, with an air of confidence.

2. Adolescent Education Programme

Several young guns of our country dream of getting well-paid jobs, but schools and colleges hardly prepare them for the real world. Most children these days manage to complete their primary education, thanks to the Right to Education Act. But, a significant bunch of rural Indians below 18 years of age find it difficult to read and solve basic maths equations, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) for 2017.

Eleven-year-old Nazifa Kachi was playing with her friends at Bombay Port Trust (BPT) when she noticed something strange about her neighbour.

“Her eyes were swollen; she told me that her husband and his family beat her up with a belt. I tried to tell her to file a police case, but she just ran away,” Nazifa says in a disheartening tone.

Nazifa had seen many such women in her community being beaten up by their husbands. The problem did not end there. The BPT community was entangled in a number of other social evils like inequality and rape. Hence Nazifa’s parents were skeptical to even send her out of their dwelling. Her father worked as a helper in the local port, earning Rs 7,000 a month.

But today, Nazifa and her friends attend Magic Bus sessions delivered by mentors from the same community every week. Shanti Ravi, the Magic Bus community coordinator for BPT, says, “She was quiet and shy when she joined. But, now she is taking an initiative for the issues she cares about. I’m amazed. She’s so young and already doing this.”

Nazifa is already dreaming big about her career and her future. She is aspiring to be a doctor and wishes to help people.

“Children and adults in BPT are suffering from so many diseases because of the unhygienic conditions in which they live in. When I’m a doctor I will help these women,” she quips.

Team Magic Bus helps children have more control in their lives. 

The Magic Bus footprint

It has been 19 years since the inception of Magic Bus and it has been adding value to the lives of lakhs of people. By training local, community-based young people to deliver long-term programmes that focus on education, health and gender equity, Magic Bus enables children and youngsters to have more choice and control in their lives to bring themselves out of poverty. Magic Bus makes use of advocacy tools and tactics, including parents’ group meets, door-to-door campaigns and community level tournaments to break the cycle of poverty across the country.

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