What Are Academics Good For?


The only college where education is a disqualification

Talk about social entrepreneurship.

“You don’t have to look for solutions outside. Look for solutions within [the communities themselves]. And listen to people; they have the solutions… Dont listen to the World Bank. Listen to the people on the ground. They have all the solutions in the world.”

This is the most logic I’ve heard in development talk in a while. It’s refreshing to hear such a grounded speech by such an inspiring man.

Established in 1972, the Barefoot College is a non-government organisation that has been providing basic services and solutions to problems in rural communities, with the objective of making them self-sufficient and sustainable… The College believes that for any rural development activity to be successful and sustainable, it must be based in the village as well as managed and owned by those whom it serves. Therefore, all Barefoot initiatives whether social, political or economic, are planned and implemented by a network of rural men and women who are known as ‘Barefoot Professionals’.

Rural men and women irrespective of age, who are barely literate or not at all, and have no hope of getting even the lowest government job, are being trained to work as day and night school teachers, doctors, midwives, dentists, health workers, balsevikas, solar engineers, solar cooker engineers, water drillers, hand pump mechanics, architects, artisans, designers, masons, communicators, water testers, phone operators, blacksmiths, carpenters, computer instructors, accountants and kabaad-se-jugaad professionals.

With little guidance, encouragement and space to grow and exhibit their talent and abilities, people who have been considered ‘very ordinary’ and written off by society, are doing extraordinary things that defy description.

$35 computer to teach children the basics of IT and computer programming!

The Raspberry Pi, a small computer that will help children to learn programming and coding, has gone on sale today in the UK and projects an official education launch later in the year.

At only £22 ($35), the Raspberry Pi will allow teachers to instruct students how computers work and the basics of programming and coding “with their own credit card sized, single-board computers,” according to British Education Secretary Michael Gove. “With minimal memory and no disk drives, the Raspberry Pi computer can operate basic programming languages, handle tasks like spreadsheets, word-processing and games, and connect to Wi-Fi via a dongle,” he said.

Although there are a wide range of skills required in IT, and forming a single, one-size-fits-all curriculum would prove problematic (if not, impossible), modifying existing educational curriculums to give more focus on marketable and highly in-demand skills will benefit all involved since students will be introduced to technical skills at a younger age. They would have a “one up” in their future training or studies should they decide to pursue any technical or related field professionally.

Imagine the implications a relatively affordable program like this could have on countries in the midst or on the verge of revising their education curriculums. Again, no panacea here, especially in regions where educational reform and progress in general are hindered by weak institutions, economic hardship, and political conflict. But, a(nother) viable option nonetheless, for it is in these very places, such as Africa, for example, where a home-grown technology force could provide the greatest long-term, social and economic benefits for all.

Image courtesy of http://www.computing.co.uk