June 5, 2023

Great Indian Mutiny

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Barefoot College, a university for the illiterate in India

Tilonia, India

It is Harvard University of Harvard University of Harvard University.

Barefoot college is the only institution I’ve ever seen, and this is what it looks like in rural Rajasthan: Chota Devi, an illiterate girl who hasn’t been to school for a day, languishes. on the blackboard.

Chota, whose age is not known, is a Dalit, belonging to the Valmiki, a lowly group of people once known as the untouchables, who are at the bottom of the caste system and who often clean up human waste.

But now Chota is studying to become a solar energy technician. Barefoot College trains low-level and illiterate villagers like her to make solar-powered lights and install solar systems. After three to six months of training, they return to their communities and earn a decent living by bringing solar power to places that lack reliable electricity — and in the process improve the social hierarchy.

I have more knowledge than my husband,” Chota pointed out mischievously. When she returns home, the villagers call her “Madam”. It’s part comedy, part tribute show.

With a new income of $80 a month, Chota plans to pay off the debt, buy a simple cell phone and build a toilet. Chota has five children, none of whom are in school now, but their foot college teachers have left their mark. “I work with women who can read and write, so now my children have to learn too,” she said.

Pankar Roy, now 77, a three-time Indian national squash champion and an activist inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, visited this remote village in 1972 to see what could be done to tackle entrenched poverty. That year he founded the Barefoot College.

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Roy focused on putting technical skills in the hands of the least educated and most undervalued people in society—because they needed help the most, and he believed that building dignity and self-reliance were critical elements in overcoming poverty.

“We wanted to find another university where people weren’t punished for being illiterate,” Roy told me.

So the Barefoot College takes illiterate villagers—mostly Dalits or women—and trains them in technical skills like installing solar panels. Funded by foundations, endowments and the Government of India, the university also provides literacy classes, health campaigns, a water resource department, research centers and a sanitary napkin factory.

The urban-rural divide exists worldwide, with opportunities lagging behind in rural America and rural India. Losers sometimes self-medicate, creating cycles of despair; In India, all this is complicated by caste and gender. Barefoot College fosters opportunity by providing skills training in much the same way that community colleges in America do, but here there is a particular emphasis on the very poor.

One of the first initiatives of the Barefoot College was to train Dalits to install water pumps. Initially this was in their own communities as they were not allowed to use the same wells as the upper castes.

As a result, a city’s most reliable water source became one of the neighborhood’s most hated. When the upper caste villagers found their wells dry, they fetched water from the Dalit pump. “It’s only for cattle,” they said at the beginning.

When their own bombs broke, they also had to call in a Dalit bomb technician. Confusion grew as Dalits were traditionally not allowed to touch food or water vessels used by upper castes.

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Americans can learn from this approach in rural India. The U.S. should also provide better technical skills training to the disadvantaged — like electricians, wind turbine installers, carpenters, and more.

Over the decades, Barefoot College has attracted international and local funding to expand. It now has water projects across India, and the Indian government brings women from Africa and elsewhere to study solar engineering for six-month courses and then return home to bring electricity to their villages.

“The illiterates of the 21st century are not those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn and relearn,” Roy said.

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By: Nicholas Kristof

BBC-NEWS-SRC: https://www.nytsyn.com/subscribed/stories/6638320, Import Date: 2023-03-31 14:40:07