Monday, September 14, 2009

India’s Barefoot College - Bringing Back Smiles

The term ‘Barefoot College’ is symbolic as well as literal for thousand of poor illiterate men, women and children in remote villages of India. Started in 1971 in Tilonia, Rajasthan, this college has been training villagers to become “barefoot” architects, midwives, pathologists, solar and water engineers, accountants and even IT workers at their own pace. Unlike various global initiatives to promote sustainable development, this college has been transforming lives in Rajasthan for the past 35 years in a quiet but revolutionary manner. Once the villagers are trained, they use their skills within their community.

Disadvantaged members, especially women from villages all over India are sent to this collage where they learn new skills and also earn a small stipend. It’s great to know how Barefoot College has placed poor families on the path of financial self-reliance and contributed to the global cause of sustainable development.

The college may have given hope and brought smiles on millions of faces but its achievements have also been more than great. Solar powered lighting has been provided to 136 remote Himalayan villages by barefoot engineers. Night schools conducted at Barefoot College have made it possible for more than 15,000 children to get basic education.

In case you are wondering how far the barefoot approach can go, you will be pleased to learn that the college is now involved in training villagers from countries like Ethiopia, Senegal, Bhutan, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan as well. For Bunker Roy, founder of Barefoot College, the process has been the real achievement rather than the result but for families that have benefitted from this college; a new life has been given to them.

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