June 26th, 2015
Sanjit “Bunker” Roy is an Indian social activist and educator. He was selected as one of Time 100‘s 100 most influential personalities in 2010 for his work in educating illiterate and semi literate rural Indians.
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.
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.”