In Rajasthan, India, an extraordinary school teaches rural women and men -- many of them illiterate -- to become solar engineers, artisans, dentists and doctors in their own villages. It's called the Barefoot College, and its founder, Bunker Roy, explains how it works.
Sanjit “Bunker” Roy is the founder of Barefoot College, which helps rural communities becomes self-sufficient.
Development projects the world over run into one crucial point: For a project to live on, it needs to be organic, owned and sustained by those it serves. In 1972, Sanjit “Bunker” Roy founded the Barefoot College, in the village of Tilonia in Rajasthan, India, with just this mission: to provide basic services and solutions in rural communities with the objective of making them self-sufficient. These “barefoot solutions” can be broadly categorized into solar energy, water, education, health care, rural handicrafts, people’s action, communication, women’s empowerment and wasteland development. The Barefoot College education program, for instance, teaches literacy and also skills, encouraging learning-by-doing. (Literacy is only part of it.) Bunker’s organization has also successfully trained grandmothers from Africa and the Himalayan region to be solar engineers so they can bring electricity to their remote villages.
As he says, Barefoot College is "a place of learning and unlearning: where the teacher is the learner and the learner is the teacher."
"Roy's idea is that India and Africa are full of people with skills, knowledge and resourcefulness who are not recognised as engineers, architects or water experts but who can bring more to communities than governments or big businesses."
“[The Barefoot College is] the only college where the teacher is the learner and the learner is the teacher.”
“I had a very elitist, snobbish, expensive education in India, and that almost destroyed me.”
“The prime minister is 12 years old. She looks after 20 goats in the morning, but she’s prime minister in the evening.” — on student governance at a Barefoot College
“We went to Ladakh … and we asked this woman, ‘What was the benefit you had from solar electricity?’ And she thought for a minute and said, ‘It’s the first time I can see my husband’s face in winter.’”
The mascot for Barefoot College, the puppet
Training women at Barefoot College
Students in Africa, training the future
Barefoot College is fully solar powered
Cooking with Solar Power!