Empowering through skills and confidence

Being part of a Liberal Arts institution, we often discuss about places where we can to take our students for an excursion for their holistic development. Barefoot college (located in Tilonia, Rajasthan) is one such place. It is an organisation that specializes in low cost technology solutions for poverty eradication, village development and women empowerment. It was built, and is run, by illiterate or semi literate villagers, from India and trains students, mostly women, from over 100 countries all over the world. The courses include, among other things, how to conceive, design, install and operate solar power based energy solutions for villages without electricity. Inspired and conducted by strictly Gandhian principles, it offers no degrees, but empowers students through skills and confidence. Since 1970s, it has been a marvel to management and development sector experts, on how to successfully empower rural communities with skills based on a curriculum distilled from their own traditional knowledge and wisdom. A visit to Barefoot College, I believe, would ensure an unforgettable learning experience for the Liberal Arts students. First and foremost, it will offer them an exposure to the wonderful and humbling reality that basic lessons in science and technology can be learnt, mastered and taught by poor men and women without conventional education. It will offer a particularly strong experience of how to work as a team. Stories of how tens, and then hundreds and then hundreds of thousands of rural men and women understood that their collective improvement is dependent on large scale teamwork and coordination are certainly going to inspire students to appreciate the value of teamwork. It may offer a lesson on how to operate a sustainable enterprise with a small budget, on how to manage human resources in the most effective manner. Our future is not going to be smooth without a systematic foundation in conflict resolution and arbitration, based entirely on methods that are rooted in local heritage.

Srotaswini Bhowmick, Assistant Professor, Unitedworld School of Liberal Arts and Mass Communication (USLM)

Disclaimer: The opinions / views expressed in this article are solely of the author in his / her individual capacity. They do not purport to reflect the opinions and/or views of the College and/or University or its members.

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