India, October 30, 2020: The social sector in India has long been challenged by the fact that critical issues that need addressing – girls’ empowerment, healthcare, employability, education, sanitation – are so widespread and deep-rooted that creating social change is a formidable task. And its not just in megacities that lie many solutions to such challenges. In fact, in many small towns, villages and even hamlets, their citizens could teach us life’s most invaluable lessons.
Here is one such story of how the determination to keep children connected to education, changed the destiny of an entire village in Maharashtra:
Natala is a village in Wardha district, Maharashtra that had no transport connectivity. Education beyond Class VIII had been a challenge for several years as children had no access to school. The nearest secondary school was 5 km away with no transport from the village. Instead, children would have to walk a narrow, jungle and stone laden path to access transport to the city, a risk none of the parents were willing to take.
When Magic Bus began its intervention in Natala village through Project Disha, many children were dropping out of school as there was no transport connectivity. Project Disha mobilised the Sarpanch, parents, students and local stakeholders and advocated for a road and a bus service that connected the village to the city. Ten months of mobilising, rigorous follow-ups and sustained efforts finally led to the start of a bus service for Natala village.
Seeing the bus service start, Mayuri, a girl residing in Natala, was the happiest, as she too, like others had decided to drop out of school. Mayuri is a differently-abled girl who found it impossible to walk the distance. Her mother, an ex-Sarpanch, and her community members, took it upon them to make sure that no child drops out.
The bus service is not merely a move to address the crisis. Rather, it provides an opportunity for the people of Natala: It is connecting residents of Natala to livelihood opportunities. It is giving them access to healthcare. It is ensuring that all their children now have access to school and can aspire to a future that is poverty-free. More importantly, it now offers an array of opportunities to the young girls and boys of Natala.
Mayuri was then able to continue her education in a school that was located 6 km away from her village. She has worked very hard and received support from her teachers and headmaster, including her mentor, Vaishali who is a young leader at Magic Bus. In July 2020, her exam results were declared and Mayuri was the first child in the whole gram Panchayat to score 84 per cent. She has also ranked 2nd in her school. Her parent’s joy knew no bounds and she made every person in her village and school very happy and proud.
Mayuri’s hard work and determination has encouraged more than 30 students to continue to complete their education. Since 2017, Magic Bus India Foundation has been implementing Project Disha in 31 schools and 30 villages spread across 8 districts in Maharashtra. Project Disha is supported by HDFC Bank Parivartan. The efforts and mobilisation of the community have ensured that no child drops out of main stream education.