Director: Annemie Maes
Duration: 00:04:11; Aspect Ratio: 1.779:1; Hue: 333.985; Saturation: 0.063; Lightness: 0.225; Volume: 0.105; Cuts per Minute: 33.337
At Barefoot College, ordinary men and women -whatever their qualifications- can learn about solar energy. Roles have to be flexible: the teacher can be the learner and the learner can be the teacher.
The whole environment is one of creative learning, demystifying technology and unlearning through processes that are natural, non violent and respectful.
At present time, 32 Buthanese girls and 6 Mauretanian women follow a 6 months training to become a solar engineer in their home villages.
From start on, the decision to step into the solar project is community-based. The home-village (mostly remote villages without electricity) selects and delegates its future women engineers for a 6 months training at Barefoot College in Rajasthan. In a community contract, every village family engages itself to pay its share in the remuneration of the engineers to set up and maintain the village solar system at their return home.The future engineers learn the necessary skills to repair inverters and charge the controllers for the solar units they will look after.
Every family of the remote village communities pays a small sum for the equipment and the services of the solar engineers. As such, every member of the community takes his responsability in this ecological project of sustainable energy.
In the solar engineer training productivity results from collective work. The learning environment is open and decentralised and knowledge is passed on in a bottom-up and hands-on way. The students are taught by 3 Indian women, pioneers from the solar workshop section. Students and teachers don't speak each other languages. They communicate by sign- and body language, pointing to the colors of their sarees to indicate the colors of the necessary resistors and capacitors for building the electrical circuits.
For more on the Politics of Change project, see http://pad.ma/TF/info
For the finished film 'Mahila', see http://pad.ma/TL/info
After the 7.30 am breakfast, chapati's and chai, Mr. Ram Niwas takes me on a tour around the new Barefoot Campus. Explaining the Barefoot approach, the 14 programmes, he makes me visit all different sections and introduces me to the people responsible for their section.
Everything starts with a hands on education. Educated people don't have to be necessarely litterate. One can function on an equal level in society by taking responsability on his/her job in an hands-on way. One of the most important Barefoot approaches to get people aware of their rights and to give them information, is the puppettheatre. By taking these selfmade avatars to the villages, they construct real-life situations to which the villagepeople can actively respond and interact.
A groups of 6 Mauretanian women arrived today to start a six months solar engineer training. I'll try to follow them. Another group of Bhutanese women (and two man) is already halfway their training.
Tilonia is a very small village in the middel of the Rajasthan desert, about 650 km south-west of Delhi. Barefoot College was founded here in the early '70-ties.
What makes it unique and different to all other centres of 'learning and unlearning', is its approach: it has devalued and rejected the urban professionals produced by the formal education system.
Over the years it became clear what exactly is unlearnt: the extent to which was underestimated the infinite capacity and competence of the people to identify and solve their own problems, by means of their own skills and mutual trust without relying on strangers' skills and knowledge from outside.
Nearly three decades ago, the Barefoot People started putting Ghandian ideas into practice, not knowing weather their own 'Experiments with Truth' would work because they sounded so simple and yet so difficult.
The basic Gandhian concepts and principles of simplicity and austerity have stood the test of time. People live and eat together. People sit on the floor at Barefoot, and work. People in this College clean their own dishes, sweep their own floors and do voluntary work to keep the Centre clean. Everybody is equal. The ideas, values, humanity and compassion of the people are in focus. The lifestyle of Barefoot College harbours the spirit of a Gandhian ashram.
Interaction with the rural community has taught to respect the natural elements like water and sun. Since 1986 the Barefoot College runs solely on solar energy. Computers, telephone-lines, lighting for residencies and offices, water distribution, laboratory and maternity centre are run on power that comes from the sun. The nightschools for kids are provided with lighting from solar lanterns. Rainwater is collected in underground tanks. No water is wasted.
The construction of the entire campus was the responsability of an illiterate farmer. Without any knowledge of how to read blueprints, but using low-cost materials and relying on his instincts, he built the campus with rural masons from the nearby villages.
The installation of the solar panels, the wiring, planning, repair and maintenance of the entire system was done by the trained Barefoot Solar Engineers. Only technology which can be understood and repaired, which fulfils a basic need and lies within the control of the community should be widely applied.
Gandhi believed that sophisticated technology should be used in rural India but it should be in the hands and under the control of the poor communities to prevent them from being dependent or exploited or losing their jobs. Barefoot College deploys technology for the purpose of improving the life quality of the poor in a sustainable fashion.