Exposure Visit to Barefoot College Tilonia
In the previous post we read about the exposure visit to GVNML and Lakshman Singh’s intervention in village Laporiya. The visit to Laporiya proved to be a great learning experience for trainees; continuing this awakening journey, the group was taken to Barefoot College, Tilonia. Tilonia is a village in Ajmer district in Rajasthan, situated at a distance of around 90 km from Jaipur. Tilonia has been the home for Barefoot College since 1972.
About Barefoot college
The Social Work and Research Center (‘SWRC’), popularly known as Barefoot College Tiloniya, is a Voluntary Organization working in the areas of skill development, solar energy, women empowerment, handicraft. The programs run by this college are influenced by the Gandhian philosophy of Gram Swaraj (Village Self-rule) for each village. Also with a geographic focus on the least developed countries, the college train women worldwide as solar engineers, innovators and educators, who then return to their villages to bring light and learning to their community. The institutional structure of Barefoot College consists of four major departments – Solar, Education, Communication and Empowerment. Trainees visited all the four departments to understand the holistic village development model followed by Barefoot College.
Trainees were first taken to the Tilonia craft shop (handicraft emporium) showcasing a variety of traditional decorative pillows, bedspreads, paper books, quilts and duvet covers. Emporium manager explained trainees about different types of traditional arts used in making items here and that all the items are handmade, produced in house by rural women artisans. He said “The purpose behind setting up such type of emporium is that we wanted to empower the rural women and make them self-reliant. During our audits in nearby areas we found that rural women are capable of making creative products if given proper training and support. Thus we started a handicraft center for training and sales purpose and now you can see women are creating wonders.”
Trainees then visited the puppet hall which comes under Communication Department. Group’s guide for the day, Pokhar Mal ji, explained that different types of puppets like Glove puppets, Rod puppets, Human sized puppets and large bamboo-structured puppets are used to draw people’s attention towards a social issue or problem through fun filled story telling. He said, “Puppetry is a great way of making people aware about social issues or to register some best practices in their minds in a joyous manner.”
After enhancing their knowledge about the traditional art and uses of puppetry, trainees were taken to the solar department where a workshop on photo voltaic cells was going on. Women trainees (popularly known as Solar mamas) from 12 countries viz. Mexico, Syria, Senegal , Madagascar, Bali, Somalia, Kiribati etc. were receiving training on solar components. Pokhar Mal Ji explained, “Barefoot college provides training in solar lighting, solar water heaters, parabolic solar cookers and solar powered water desalination technology addressing the energy needs of people where electricity doesn’t reach. Trainees are often illiterate or semi-literate middle-aged women from rural villages worldwide who are trained to become solar engineers.” One of the Kaushalam Foundation trainees, Rajveer said, “These Solar Mamas are a great inspiration for us. They were not by any means had a previous knowledge of circuits and electronics when they came here but now they know each and every aspect about circuit and assembling. Despite coming from a lower strata and facing hardships, if they can do this then why can’t we.”
At last trainees visited the Education Department where they understood the methodologies and technologies adopted to teach rural students. Barefoot educates more than 7,000 children each year. Initiatives like Rural creche, Solar Bridge school, Day schools have been taken up so that education can reach to the doorsteps of each and every child.
Learnings from the visit
After the visit a short interaction session of trainees was commenced in which they shared the learnings and experiences they received from visit. Following are the major points drawn from the interaction:
- Everyone seemed inspired from Solar Mamas and are keen to replicate such type of training in their own village.
- The concept of night schools for children who are not able to attend school during the day due to family responsibilities such as farming, livestock breeding also fascinated them as the similar situation exists in their own village.
- Trainees also provided feedback by suggesting that Solar engineering training should be provided to rural men too. As it could prove to be an alternative source of income for them also.
Our first exposure visit proved to be a success with an overwhelming response from the trainees. Active involvement by participants in different games like quiz, group interactions, and fun filled activities also contributed to their learning. Building capacities of our trainees through such visits and several other programmes to go a long way in fulfilling our mission ‘To impart enterprising skills among youth who aspire to build the next generation sustainable and scalable social enterprises which contribute to India’s transformation as a developed nation.’