Saturday, October 25, 2008

Poptech2008 : Bunker Roy and the Barefoot University

image (Home of the Barefoot University in the State of Rajasthan India)

Bunker Roy's talk today at Pop!Tech hit home for me as I was born and brought up In India. When he said that he set aside a career to go and work laying bricks in Rajastan I thought to myself - That decision needed a lot strength specially knowing the social system in India.


In a 2005 article in the International Herald Tribune Bunker Roy said :

In 1978, when Robert McNamara, then president of the World Bank, and McGeorge Bundy, president of the Ford Foundation, spend a night at the Barefoot College here in Tilonia, McNamara asked a man whose family lived on much less than a dollar a day what he looked forward to in life. He smiled and said very quietly, "Two square meals a day."

I always use this as a perfect example when i talk about India because I have seen and heard this answer many many times. Today during this talk Bunker Roy repeatedly emphasized how the professionals in these villages i.e bone setters, masons, midwifes have so much of knowledge . Bunker mobilized them to build their own University, solar devices, rain water harvesting techniques. He then took these methods and trained other grass roots people from countries like Afghanistan, Bolivia. 


Bunker also told us of his visit to Timboctu in Mali (yes , It exists) and how they trained 2 uneducated women to come to Rajastan and learn to make Solar panels.

Another amusing story was how when they introduced solar lighting to villages in Ladakh one woman who was thrilled with the new light bulbs because she could see her husband in the winter :)

Read more coverage here Bobbie Johnson ; Pop!Tech Blog

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