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Barefoot College


The Barefoot College was founded in 1972 by Bunker Roy as a Social Work and Research Centre (SWRC). It was originally established to teach illiterate people from remote villages basic skills in professions such as building and engineering. The courses help empower villagers to service their own communities and to reduce their dependency on outside institutions.


Barefoor College works with marginalized, exploited and impoverished rural people, living on less than $1 a day, and raises them over the poverty line with dignity and self respect. The work of the organization is based on five non-negotiable values: equality, collective decision-making, self-reliance, decentralization and austerity.


The College applies rural traditional knowledge and skills to build homes for the homeless, collect rain water in rural schools and communities where drinking water is scarce, as well as spreading socio-economic messages at the grassroot level by educating children. Only technologies that can be understood and controlled by the rural communities are introduced to improve the quality of life of the poor.


Sophisticated technology should be used in rural communities, but it should always be locally owned and controlled, so that they are not dependent or at risk of being exploited. The Barefoot College has demystified technologies and decentralized their use by transferring the access, control, management and ownership to rural men and women, who in general can barely read and write.


The Barefoot College believes that ‘literacy’ is what one acquires in school, but ‘education’ is what one gains from family, traditions, culture, environment and personal experiences. Both are important for individual growth. At the College, everyone is considered an education resource, the teacher as well as the student and the literate as well as the illiterate. Therefore, the Barefoot College is a radical departure from the traditional concept of a ‘college’.


The Barefoot College has struggled to train village women, in areas that have traditionally been dominated by men. Since 1972, more than 6,525 unassuming housewives, mothers and grandmothers, midwives, farmers, daily wage laborers and small shopkeepers have been trained as Barefoot midwives, handpump mechanics, solar engineers, artisans, weavers, balsevika (kindergarten teachers), parabolic solar cooker engineers, dentists, masons, and day and night school teachers. Women who are single mothers, middle-aged, divorced, physically challenged or illiterate are prioritized for training over others because they need the employment opportunity and income the most.


Due to the work of the College 450.000 people living in rural areas now have access to electricity and 700 woman are educated as solar engineers active in 49 different countries in Asia, Afrika, South-America and Russia.  The college succeeded in educating 400 water engineers, providing 99 million liters of drinking water, which gives 2,8 million children access to drinking water.  Also 260 Barefoot doctors have been trained to treat patients with common ailments. They can administer allopathic, homeopathic and bio-chemic medicines. Barefoot College also stimulates  the collective strength of thousands of villages where they are active. This grassroots movement has successfully demonstrated for changes in areas such as contracts, guarantee of employment laws, voting rights and equal minimum wages for women and men.





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Type of initiative Knowledge/advice organization, Action/campaign organization, Information/network organization
Field of work Agriculture, Manufacturing, Education, Knowledge and information, Healthcare
Date of commencement 1972
Founder(s) Bunker Roy
Legal form Foundation
Continent Asia
Country India
City Tilonia
One or several keywords that describe your initiative Fighting poverty, education of the poor, solar energy, water management, creating independent lifestyle
Publications Newsletters
More information

Contact person(s)

Bunker Roy


Contact information

Name Barefoot College
Address Tilonia-305816, Via Madanganj
Zip/postal code
Place Tilonia
State/province Ajmer, Rajasthan
Country India
Phone : +91 (0)1463 288205



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