RURAL ILLITERATE GRANDMOTHERS AND SOLAR ELECTRIFY THE RURAL WORLD
Who The students? Illiterate grandmothers from non-electrified villages around the world, training to become Solar Engineers.
How do they learn? Incredibly, because none of the Mamas can read or speak a common language, all teaching is done through symbols, photographs, sign language and repeated practice for six months. Barefoot College demands that a lack of formal education should not stop these women from unleashing their true potential!
My first visit to the Solar Training Centre was an awe-inspiring one. Greeted by a cacophony of noise, the Solar Mamas rang out Welcomes in ten different languages – “Hola!” “Namaste!” “Maayong Buntag!” “Bonjour!”, “Habari!”-. Their ambition filled the room with an air that gave me strength.
The concept works great practically, now let’s see if the academics can make it work theoretically.
– His Holiness the IVX Dalai Lama visited in 2012
Since its inception in 2008, graduates of the Solar Engineering programme have electrified 1015 villages in 68 countries, changing the lives of 500,000 villagers. Using the practical skills gained at Barefoot, the Solar Mamas can light homes, schools and hospitals, and will maintain and repair lamps and panels for up to five years. However, the Solar Mama’s journey does not end solely with the acquisition of practical skills and techniques.
While on campus the women absorb each other’s diversity, grow in confidence and realize their potential as leaders within their own communities. When returning home they spread the necessity of female empowerment, the harnessing of traditional knowledge and rural techniques, and the goal of equal education for all.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the Barefoot College programme is not only that women learn to electrify their villages. But that the Solar Mamas who graduate become shining beacons of lights themselves, going on to further inspire and empower a new generation of women with no limitations.
As a new visitor to Barefoot College, I am overwhelmed and inspired by the determination of each of the Solar Mamas. By taking the astounding step to leave their communities and learn a completely new trade, they prove that it is not certificates, grades or job titles that count. Instead, what truly matters is having the courage to make a change, create new solutions, and affect the world positively.