Here's how the Gubbachi Learning Community is empowering kids of migrant workers in Bengaluru

Transforming the life of migrant labourers' children is the only motto of Gubbachi Learning Community and that is what they have been doing in Bengaluru for more than five years 
A boy learning to arrange Kannada letters (Pics: Gubbachi Learning Community)
A boy learning to arrange Kannada letters (Pics: Gubbachi Learning Community)

Education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world', these famous words uttered by Nelson Mandela will remain relevant for many centuries because education truly opens your mind to a new horizon of thinking and understanding whatever exists around you. And that's what Gubbachi Learning Community has been trying to do with the kids of migrant labourers by providing them with quality education. Started in 2015, Gubbachi is based in Bengaluru. Rizwan Ahmed, one of the co-founders, recalls how it all began, "There are six core members in our team and five of us met at Azim Premji University where we were pursuing our Master's in Education. All of us were exposed to the need for providing quality education to kids, especially school dropouts. That's how Josephdeyone Jacobi, Nomita Sikand, Preethy Rao, Somya Suri and I came together to start Gubbachi. At the same time, Manimakalai Raja, who was interested in designing a creative curriculum for kids, joined our team."

Like every metro city, the IT city of India has been growing and the major growth is in the construction of buildings and new infrastructure. Therefore, there are thousands of migrant labourers who come to the city on a daily basis. "We noticed that there were many kids of different age groups at the Government Higher Primary School in Kodathi who were children of migrant labourers. We started working closely with the Education department and collected data on the number of children who are out of school. The officials asked us to design a bridge programme for these kids to bring them back to school. We call it Gubbachi Connect. What we do under this programme is when we bring these kids aged between 6 and 9 years to school, we try to bridge their learning gaps and help them settle in appropriate grades, thus mainstreaming them," explains Rizwan.

At the same time, the Gubbachi team realised that there was a shortage of teachers at this school. The group volunteered to conduct the bridge classes for the migrant labourers' kids and provide quality education to the other kids in the school. "The department recognised us and appreciated the work. Gradually, we moved to the Government Primary School in Sulikunte where we followed the same process for school dropouts using that school's infrastructure. There were 20 kids and they belonged to different grades. They were embraced by the  same school which not only shaped their lives but also increased the school's enrolment rate. Now, every quarter or every year, we submit our report to the Education department about the increase in the strength of the school and the academic progress of the children," adds Rizwan. 

You will be surprised to know that the Government Higher Primary School. which had only 70 kids earlier, now has over 200 kids attending classes. In order to ensure that there is no gap between what they teach under Gubbachi Connect and what is taught in mainstream schools, Rizwan and his team have designed another programme called Gubbachi Transform. "We have trained a set of teachers to teach children in the Nali-Kali methodology. Whenever children move to mainstream school, this methodology ensures that children pick up from where they left off. This methodology is unique as it is meant for both fast as well as slow learners. These trained teachers teach class I, II and III using this methodology. The advantages of the Nali-Kali methodology is that it is activity-based, facilitates multiple sensory stimulations, peer guidance and it can be applied to teach any language or subject."

While the primary challenge was to bring these kids to school, another challenge was ensuring that these kids continue to remain with them. But for this to happen, Gubbachi had to work with their parents and understand their problems also. This is where Gubbachi Enable comes in. "It becomes important for these workers to live a dignified life even in the cities. We must understand that back in the rural areas, these people are no longer landlords when it comes to social status. They have large acres of fields that have become barren due to a dearth of rain and water, forcing them to move to bigger cities. Hence, under Gubbachi Enable, we work with these communities and enable them with access to Aadhaar cards, voter IDs, open bank accounts, conduct health check camps and create awareness on social issues like women empowerment, being a good parent and bad impact of alcoholism. It is only when we connect with them that we build trust and a sense of confidence — giving them a chance to become an equal partner in education."

But how did Gubbachi work with these migrant workers and their children when the pandemic took over? Rizwan says, "When the lockdown was announced, the primary issue was hunger and we had to solve that on a priority basis. Therefore, we provided essentials and groceries to 200 families but we noticed that a lot of other families starved due to no food or income. So, we used crowdfunding platforms to raise funds in order to provide essentials to these families. Thousands of individuals from across Karnataka contributed and we were able to provide groceries to over 6,000 families of migrant labourers." Rizwan who hopes that the schools open soon, says, "I want to see kids busy and playful just like the sparrow. And this is the reason behind naming our organisation Gubbachi, which means sparrow in Kannada."

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