Barefoot College is something that never fails to amaze us.
It’s a place where “words like inclusion, social justice and equality are not just words … they are a way of life” (Meagan Fallone, CEO – Barefoot College International).
It’s a skills-based, Social Work and Research Centre, run by volunteers and geared towards educating, up-skilling and empowering members of impoverished communities. When most of us think of the accessibility of education, inevitably the financial side of things will always be a factor. But this isn’t the case at all when it comes to the Barefoot College.
It’s founder, Bunker Roy, was careful from day one to integrate Gandhi’s ideals into the lifestyle and work ethics of the organisation. So what about the prerequisites for enrollment, I hear you ask? Qualifications certainly don’t count amongst them, nor does literacy, and there’s no such thing as a “mature” student. Or any hierarchy, for that matter. In fact, if you have any qualifications – from BTEC Diplomas, to a Master’s degree, to a PhD – you are unsuitable to work or learn at this institution.
Yup, you read that last part correctly: however accomplished you may think you are, you’re actually unsuitable for any of the initiatives run across the developing world by Barefoot College.
The following are focal points of the curriculum, above all for training women to lead:
- Basic digital IT skills
- Legal rights and civil society
- Women’s reproductive health
- Livelihood skils
- Financial inclusion
- Micro-enterprise skills
- Environmental stewardship
In the past, Roy has spoken extensively about what motivated him to start this movement. As a young graduate of India’s most elite educational establishments, he visited the state of Bihar – still to this day one of India’s most impoverished – and witnessed devastating famine firsthand. Coming from the urbane environs of Delhi, this experience deeply affected him, and what had previously seemed like a secure path into a career of international diplomacy, suddenly became utterly meaningless.
He moved to Tilonia, in Rajasthan, and founded the very first iteration of the college; since then, the rest is history. Since 1989, the offering of his organisation has grown further, beyond what he could ever have imagined. From initially focusing on the transferral of sustainable, traditional skills through experiential learning, his college is pioneering training in solar electrification, exclusively for remote, rural villages and towns.
What’s truly inspiring is the people Barefoot College aims to equip and train: mostly mothers and grandmothers of small villages, who otherwise would be totally cut off from any opportunities for education or skills-based training. And what do these individuals tend to do once their training is complete? Invariably, they take what they learn straight back into their villages. This means that these communities are able to better themselves on their own terms. Where once they would have been viewed as disadvantaged and worse, they now master cutting-edge renewable energy.
In the process, they also free themselves of the prohibitively expensive sources of energy, for which they may previously have been dependent on others for access. With their new specialist solar engineers, these communities now possess an extent of knowledge and skills that they can pass on to others in need, and indefinitely.
Find Out More
Watch the video below for a case study. It details how a group of women from a selection of developing countries travelled to the college in Tilonia, to learn skills their communities so desperately needed.
By now, surely you can see why the Barefoot College is the very first in our Dauntless Spirit series of blog posts. With this brand new editorial thread, we’ll be celebrating individuals and organisations that are making waves and creating positive change.
Keep your eyes here for plenty more!