Tapping into Rural Wisdom to Solve Rural Problems

Published on October 18, 2017

Sanjit “Bunker” Roy — Six Key Insights Driving the Future of Quality of Life for Students

Despite his elite education and to the dismay of his family, Sanjit “Bunker” Roy spent five years digging wells in rural India. It planted the seeds of a system of education that is now found in 93 countries.

“I was exposed to the most extraordinary knowledge, skills and wisdom that very poor people have,” said Roy. In order to transfer this into the mainstream, Roy came up with the idea of the Barefoot College. The focus of Roy's educational system is using practical training to impart that knowledge and wisdom.

The college was constructed by a local village architect who was illiterate, yet built a structure that does not leak and still stands today, a structure that has been solar-powered for 25 years, and has faster optical fiber than Delhi.

The same teaching methods — including the use of puppetry — are used to educate children, build forestry schemes and preserve cultural heritage.

We believe in the traditional way of solving problems.

Finding the Simple Solution

“We believe in the traditional way of solving problems,” said Roy. "If there is a lack of drinking water, we consider collecting rainwater instead of putting in a hand-pump. We collect 100 metric liters of water in 1,200 villages," he said, providing access to water for 50,000 children.

The Dalai Lama asked me, “Now that you have shown the Barefoot College works in practice, can you make it work in theory?” Roy recounted.

We are doing everything wrong, and yet it seems to work.

Women a Driving Force

Women are encouraged to take on jobs traditionally performed by men. One of the main aims is to encourage people not to migrate from the villages to the big cities.

We believe that women should work in the villages so that they do not migrate to the cities.

The two main lessons learned are that urban solutions do not solve rural problems, and that it is wise to keep solutions simple. When an idea is accepted and understood, the people will run with it, said Roy.

Regrettably, corporations have yet to express an interest in creating partnerships to develop the ideas of the Barefoot College, said Roy.