Barefoot College

What did you notice from this video?

What did you have an emotional reaction from in this video? What amazed you? Shocked you? Made you joyful?

What are the basic assumptions of Bunker Roy about how to effectively empower people to improve their lives and eradicate poverty?

What is Bunker Roy saying that is contrary to the usual messages we hear about women, especially poor women?

What is Bunker Roy's ultimate goal?

"School is learning reading and writing. Education is what you learn from the family, the environment and the community." -Bunker Roy

If we use this statement as a standard of measure, what is the education being received by Taiwanese students?

"One lesson we learned in India was men are untrainable. (Laughter) Men are restless, men are ambitious, men are compulsively mobile, and they all want a certificate. (Laughter) All across the globe, you have this tendency of men wanting a certificate. Why? Because they want to leave the village and go to a city, looking for a job. [If your goal is education in the villages, you need people to stay at the villages to improve them, not run off. Also, they've found that women invest in their families and improvments, men keep the money to spend on themselves.] So we came up with a great solution: train grandmothers."

In the film Barefoot College Solar Technology, Bunker Roy says it with more detail:
"We've come to the sad conclusion that men are untrainable. They expect too much, they are restless, if they're young, they're impatient, they ask even before the training starts if they will get a certificate, and they will use that certificate to get the worst job possible in a city, whereas if you take middle aged grandmothers to be trained, I don't have that problem, of migration [to the cities]."
The narrator continues: "Women not only don't leave their rural homes, they also more reliably bring money back to their families, says Sarkim Musara (sp?). "When women work, there is at least some food and something to drink, and we can take care of the family. And we can even get our hair done with the extra money. But when a man works, maybe he will bring home moeny, and maybe he won't. "

"So we went to Afghanistan for the first time, and we picked three women and said, "We want to take them to India." They said, "Impossible. They don't even go out of their rooms, and you want to take them to India." I said, "I'll make a concession. I'll take the husbands along as well." So I took the husbands along. Of course, the women were much more intelligent than the men. In six months, how do we train these women? Sign language. You don't choose the written word. You don't choose the spoken word. You use sign language. And in six months they can become solar engineers. They go back and solar-electrify their own village."

"Gambia: we went to select a grandmother in Gambia. Went to this village. I knew which woman I would like to take. The community got together and said, "Take these two women." I said, "No, I want to take this woman." They said, "Why? She doesn't know the language. You don't know her." I said, "I like the body language. I like the way she speaks." "Difficult husband; not possible." Called the husband, the husband came, swaggering, politician, mobile in his hand. "Not possible." "Why not?" "The woman, look how beautiful she is." I said, "Yeah, she is very beautiful." "What happens if she runs off with an Indian man?" That was his biggest fear. I said, "She'll be happy. She'll ring you up on the mobile." She went like a grandmother and came back like a tiger. She walked out of the plane and spoke to the whole press as if she was a veteran. She handled the national press, and she was a star. And when I went back six months later, I said, "Where's your husband?" "Oh, somewhere. It doesn't matter." (Laughter) Success story."

"Narrator: Roy says the key to sustaining rural jobs and devlopment is to bring in technology that can be managed by the local community, like solar lanterns, and technology that's familiar, like rainwater collectors. ... The foundation of everything Roy does is decentralization. It's a departure from the typical approach of aid agencies, which he says want to bring in big infrastructure and ideas created by outside experts. Roy: Any technology that brings in dependency, is not a technology that will work."
Why do you suppose aid agencies would rather work with big, centralized infrastructure?

"I'll just wind up by saying that I think you don't have to look for solutions outside. Look for solutions within. And listen to people. They have the solutions in front of you. They're all over the world. Don't even worry. Don't listen to the World Bank, listen to the people on the ground. They have all the solutions in the world."

Other videos for more information. (note how in these videos, they're subtly always putting men in the video and pictures, sometimes it seems from the filmmakers' crew, despite the colleges EXPLICIT preference for women. The narrator is saying, 'women are teaching women', Bunker Roy is very clear that women are doing the teaching, and the video is edited somehow to only show men teaching women. How much footage did they edit through to find these images of men in charge?)