Barefoot College, a unique institution in Ajmer, Rajasthan, described as the world’s only college built by and for the poor, is the subject of a new documentary airing on PBS next week.
The Emmy Award-winning Independent Lens series will air “Solar Mamas,” a documentary about the groundbreaking Barefoot College, Nov. 5.
“Solar Mamas” is directed by Mona Eldaief and Jehane Noujaim. The film follows Rafea, a smart, strong-willed 32-year-old Jordanian mother of four who travels outside her village for the first time, children in tow, to attend Barefoot’s solar engineering program.
Rafea’s fellow students, including women from Guatemala, Kenya, Burkina Faso, and Colombia, come together for a life-changing, six-month job training program designed to transform them into solar engineers. The women then return to their home countries, changed and ready to change their communities for the better.
However, in Rafea’s case, her husband objects to her plans, and threatens to divorce her and take her children back unless she quits the project.
Barefoot College was founded by Sanjit “Bunker” Roy, a Doon School and St. Stephen’s School graduate and national squash champion who gave up a career in athletics to devote his life to activism. Inspired by the work of Mahatma Gandhi, he founded the school in 1972 to teach rural people sustainable skills.
More than 3 million people have been trained at the Barefoot School, in subjects such as solar energy, education, water, health care, people’s action, rural handicrafts and wasteland development.
Recognizing Roy’s work, Time magazine named him one of its 2010 “Time 100” most influential people. “Roy has nurtured a grass-roots social entrepreneurship that is redefining the way the world thinks about fighting poverty … Roy combines humanitarianism, entrepreneurship and education to help people steer their own path out of poverty, fostering dignity and self-determination along the way. His simple formula holds a key to what nations and aid organizations might do to build a more just world,” the Time article stated.
For information on “Solar Mamas,” visit www.pbs.org/independentlens/solar-mamas.