Education for dropouts

3 million people without opportunities learned a trade.

Short: Educational institute for absolutely disadvantaged people. The most disadvantaged men and women from remote areas learn a trade in the Barefoot college as a bricklayer or electrician and then return to their village to pass on the knowledge.
True: In more than 75 countries including India, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Jordan
Thinker: Sanjit Bunker
Impact: 3 million people without opportunities learned a trade

The smartest people still get the most opportunities worldwide. Also where you live and whether you have money determines to a large extent whether you have a chance of good education. The Barefoot College breaks through all three restrictions.

“Whether he was on the run sometimes?” The villagers in Rajastan asked Sanjit Bunker when he reported that he wanted to live in their village. Why would a healthy and well-to-do Indian young man like Sanjit trade a career for the construction of water pumps in a village of ‘untouchables’?

It was in 1972, when Sanjit Bunker took his first steps towards social entrepreneurship. In the meantime, his Barefoot College employs 300 trainers who, on the campus in Tiloni in Rajasthan, have been trained as disadvantaged by masons, IT’s, engineers and architects. Around 13,000 Indian households are provided with solar panels thanks to Barefoot College. In Indian villages, more than 3,000 children are taught in night schools where, after a day of work on land, they get the basis of language, arithmetic and democracy. Barefoot College has also set foot on the ground outside of India. The poorest people in 75 countries, such as Afghanistan, Jordan, Rwanda and Bhutan, are taught self-reliance, according to the Barefoot College principle. This form of sustainable education has, according to Time magazine, put three million unemployed around the world. In 2010, the magazine called Sanjit Bunker the man of the year.

His school has strict admission requirements: only those without previous schooling, without a diploma, without money and without opportunities are eligible for an education. Barefoot College wants dropouts, those who are not wanted. They receive instruction in techniques, such as bricklaying or maintaining solar panels, and have to pass this knowledge on to their community.

According to the working method of Barefoot College, delegates first talk to a rural community, a meeting in which all villagers get the right to speak. In consultation with Barefoot College they choose ten men and ten women to go on an internship in Tiloni’s school. These students return with their knowledge to their villages and improve the living conditions here. For example, they provide their villages with solar panels, a sustainable alternative to the use of the toxic kerosene. 

Students receive a monthly contribution for the maintenance of these solar panels. Allowances that do not exceed the minimum. The philosophy of Barefoot College is that students are not guided by financial gain. For this reason students on campus do not receive a diploma after completing their studies. According to Sanjit Bunker, men are especially adventurous. They want to obtain a diploma and then look for work in the city. Women, on the other hand, stay in the village and put their knowledge into the service of the community. An additional advantage: the intellectual enrichment and monthly allowance strengthen the position of women in their community. Indian women who never come from their village, or even from their homes, get more control thanks to their education. Who could have guessed that in the seventies?

https://www.barefootcollege.org/Rama Krishna Reddy Kummitha Social Entrepreneurship: Working Towards Greater Inclusiveness (New Dehli 2016)

S. Ganguly, The State of India’s Democracy (2007)

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