education in Gandhi's spirit of service
Can you imagine a college without walls, professors, or classrooms? Educator Bunker Roy can. More than 40 years ago, Roy, now 69, founded the Barefoot College, in Tilonia, India. His school recruits a unique population—rural women, often grandmothers—and teaches them the basics of solar engineering and freshwater technology. His efforts have yielded enormous benefits. When the women return to their homes, they are skilled enough to provide their communities (some of the world’s most isolated places) with electricity and clean water. They also gain something important, if less tangible: newfound self-confidence.
Barefoot College follows the lifestyle of Mahatma Gandhi: Students eat, sleep, and work on the floor. They can stay for 20 years, or they can go home tomorrow. As of today, we’ve trained 604 women solar engineers from 1,083 villages in 63 countries. The engineers have solar-electrified 45,000 houses. Please remember that our students are primarily women who have never left their villages before. They hate the idea of leaving their families and getting on a plane. When they reach India, sometimes after 19 hours of travel, they are faced with strange food, strange people, strange language. We do all the training in sign language. Yet in six months, they will know more about solar engineering than most university graduates.