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Education

Barefoot Educational Imprint

Low literacy levels and an urgent need to educate the rural poor led to the Barefoot College education programme. Although this began by focusing on adult education, staff saw that children too were attracted to these classes. 1975 the picture of a lantern, surrounded by children under a dark night sky, gave rise to the idea of night school. 

Over 90,000 children, 55% of them girls, have benefited from Barefoot College’s community-led educational programme. 40% of Barefoot-schooled children have gone on to state-run schools while the rest involved themselves in different learning activities. Barefoot College’s model of practical education plays an important role in empowering lives. 

In the last 50 years, 90000+ students from remote villages have been educated through initiatives like Shiksha Niketan, Residential Bridge Schools and Night Schools. More than 55% of these children have been girls.

 

• More than 40% of the Barefoot College students have gone into the State-run secondary schools and many of these have become high-attaining students.

 

• 14,000+ grassroots teachers, trained through participation in the comprehensive teache-training programmes initiated by Barefoot College, have been taken into the State School system.

 

• 976 people have benefited through the Digital Literacy Programme.

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It began when . . .

Poor enrolment and attendance levels in government schools demonstrated that they needed attention. The Barefoot College saw the solution – run government primary schools in two shifts, mornings but also evenings to enable children working at their family’s occupations in daytime to attend. In the early 1980s the College began a three-year project with the Centre for Educational Technology (CET), National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) in Delhi and the Government of Rajasthan to run three experimental schools around Tilonia (Phaloda, Tilonia and Buharu). At the project’s end, an NCERT evaluation found that these schools had substantially reduced drop-out rates and increased enrolment. At that point the schools were handed over to the Rajasthan government.

The success of the day schools led to the Government of Rajasthan’s Shiksha Karmi project, through which young local people trained as teachers. The Barefoot College continued running evening/night schools for children occupied with family work during the day. 
 

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Shiksha Niketan, Tilonia

From the start Shiksha Niketan’s vision has been to help children become all-round contributors to society, as intelligent and ethical human beings. For the last forty years this empowerment has been reflected in innumerable ways. Emphasis on the Constitution, promoting secular values, equality and equity of social and economic ideas, and the ability and freedom to think and create – all of these inform its curriculum. Technology and rural knowledge come together to give children the best learning experience possible. At the request of villagers, particularly parents, Shiksha Niketan, which began as a primary school, was eventually raised to the 8th standard/middle school.

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Residential Bridge School, Singla

The Bridge School is residential, run by Barefoot College for children, who are unable to enrol in formal school, such as those from migrant families, or dropout children from vulnerable sections of the local communities. When the children feel ready and confident enough to join the local schools, the Bridge school provides maximum support to bring them into the mainstream, and supports them in their progress.

Our Initiatives

Night Schools for 'out-of-school children' offer practical, experiential learning in an informal setting, utilizing village teachers and repurposed materials. Powered by solar lanterns, they cater to working children in multiple Indian states. A standout initiative is the Children’s Parliament, where elected members discuss school affairs and learn about democracy, leadership, and gender equality.

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Night Schools

The idea of Night Schools for ‘out-of-school children’ has been a great success. Why?

• The structure is informal.
• The focus is on practical and experiential learning.
• Barefoot College’s use of naturally gifted village teachers combined with expertise from trained social workers results in new ways to learn.
• We create teaching aids and learning materials from waste material. This uses local technologies and empowers marginalised groups. For example we use toys and learning aids crafted from local wood by physically challenged rural young people.
• These 250 Night Schools are powered by 500+ solar lanterns designed, created and maintained by village Barefoot Solar Engineers.

Beyond Rajasthan, more than 250 Night Schools have been set up in ten other Indian states
: Assam, Bihar, Orissa, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh,
Kerala, Manipur and Himachal Pradesh. All are focused on helping working children.
 

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Innovative Ways to Learn: The Children’s Parliament

The Centre for Educational Technology /government schools featured a Panchayat project where elections were held to teach children about voting. The night schools adopted this tradition, and the innovative concept of a Children’s Parliament was born.

• The elected members of the Children’s Parliament had specific portfolios. They raised questions about school affairs, such as lighting and the non-performance of teachers. Additionally, however, in preparation for being active members of the Panchayat as adults, they discussed the working of the Panchayat and the values associated with leadership, critical thinking and a developed democratic awareness.

• Interestingly, for over ten years, the Children’s Parliament elected girls as its Prime Ministers.  One of them, Devaki, was invited to Sweden where she received the World’s Children’s Prize and met and chatted with the Queen of Sweden.
 

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