An inspiring talk by Bunker Roy, the founder of the Barefoot College, an extraordinary Indian school teaches rural women and men — many of them illiterate — to become solar engineers, artisans, dentists and doctors in their own villages.
According to the college’s website:
Established in 1972, the Barefoot College is a non-government organisation that has been providing basic services and solutions to problems in rural communities, with the objective of making them self-sufficient and sustainable. These ‘Barefoot solutions’ can be broadly categorised into solar energy, water, education, health care, rural handicrafts, people’s action, communication, women’s empowerment and wasteland development.
The College believes that for any rural development activity to be successful and sustainable, it must be based in the village as well as managed and owned by those whom it serves. Therefore, all Barefoot initiatives whether social, political or economic, are planned and implemented by a network of rural men and women who are known as ‘Barefoot Professionals’.
Rural men and women irrespective of age, who are barely literate or not at all, and have no hope of getting even the lowest government job, are being trained to work as day and night school teachers, doctors, midwives, dentists, health workers, balsevikas, solar engineers, solar cooker engineers, water drillers, hand pump mechanics, architects, artisans, designers, masons, communicators, water testers, phone operators, blacksmiths, carpenters, computer instructors, accountants and kabaad-se-jugaad professionals.
With little guidance, encouragement and space to grow and exhibit their talent and abilities, people who have been considered ‘very ordinary’ and written off by society, are doing extraordinary things that defy description.