An interview with Jayant Rastogi, Global CEO of the Magic Bus India Foundation

With a blend of life skills education and employability skilling, the foundation has impacted many youngsters across India

Updated - May 21, 2024 12:28 pm IST

Published - May 18, 2024 12:18 pm IST

Mentorship and support play a crucial role in keeping the youngsters motivated.

Mentorship and support play a crucial role in keeping the youngsters motivated. | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

For 25 years, the Magic Bus India Foundation has worked to empower young people from marginalised communities with life and employability skills and enable first-time learners and earners to realise their full potential to create a more meaningful and impactful future for themselves and their communities. Since its inception in 1999, the foundation has worked with over 30,00,000 adolescents, says Jayant Rastogi, Global CEO.

As he talks about its journey and future plans, Rastogi takes pride in the fact that, since 2014, the organisation has placed over 380,000 youngsters in sustainable jobs. “In 2023-24 alone, we have equipped 18,00,000 adolescents with life skills and enrolled over 1.3 lakh youth to teach them transferable life and employability skills, and connecting them to sustainable livelihood opportunities.” In 2023, the Magic Bus’ pedagogy was recognised by HundrED for Teacher Professional Development and was ranked among the top 100 impactful and scalable educational innovations worldwide. It also received the Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice from the Harmony Foundation.

Jayant Rastogi, Global CEO, Magic Bus India Foundation

Jayant Rastogi, Global CEO, Magic Bus India Foundation | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Building skills

While sports is used to build teamwork skills and resilience and promote health and well-being, the life skills curriculum covers aspects such as education, employability, health, and gender equality. Rastogi stresses the importance of life skills for youngsters. They are better able to navigate challenges, he says, adding that the foundation encourages building of digital literacy, problem-solving skills, mentorship and support systems. “When we are able to nurture these skills and a sense of purpose in each individual, we have seen a remarkable difference in their futures.” Mentorship and support also play a crucial role in keeping the youngsters motivated. “Local mentors build trusting relationships with participants, offering guidance and encouragement as they pursue their goals.

Last year also marked a significant milestone, as the foundation signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with six state governments to implement life skills education in government schools. Another MoU with the Management & Entrepreneurship and Professional Skills Council (MEPSC) aims to empower youth from marginalised communities through Skilling and Livelihood Programmes. One of their initiatives is Future X, an AI-based platform to meticulously map the entire lifecycle management of young individuals enrolled in the Livelihood Programme. “Our journey rests on four pillars: people, processes, programmes, and partnerships.”

Going forward, Rastogi explains that the aim is to reach over 100 lakh young people in the next three years annually. “We also want to encourage increased participation of women in education and the workforce and working towards the inclusion of girls in our programmes. Our goal is to expand our programmes to reach every needy corner of our country, ensuring that every young person from marginalised communities has access to opportunities that enable them to lead a dignified life.

Success story

One of the foundation’s success stories is that of Gulafsha Khan, which illustrates the transformative power of education. Growing up in the challenging environment of Kadampuri in northeast Delhi, Gulfasha was introduced to the Get Into programme during a mobilisation drive in her community. Her achievements saw her transform into an ambassador of change for young women in her community and receiving the Prince’s Trust Global Award in 2022. She was one of the Prince’s Trust International representatives who attended the coronation of King Charles III.

An important aspect of the foundation’s longevity has been the nurturing of a culture of trust within the communities it works in. “We actively engage with local communities and prioritise hiring individuals from within them to foster deeper connections and enhance our ability to effectively navigate and address local nuances and needs.” While social issues are best tackled by local organisations low female workforce participation and high dropout rates in schools require a broader reach. The foundation also collaborates with various public and private stakeholders to leverage diverse expertise and resources to enhance its collective impact and address complex challenges. “Hence, we have chosen to scale up, build a strong foundation, recruit skilled staff, and streamline our processes. We believe this approach is crucial for significant social change.”

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