Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

NEXTSTEP: Moving the "Barefoot College" around the world

My NEXTSTEP initiative is based on Reid Falconer's blog post on Bunker Roy - the man who started the Barefoot College. This has made a substantial difference to many people's lives in India, and there's nothing stopping a person from beginning an initiative of the same type anywhere else in the world.

South Africa, both mine and Reid's home country, is a place of great turmoil. While the political situation is somewhat under control, AIDS and HIV are rampant, called "uGawulayo" (in Xhosa, one of our eleven national languages) or the "cutter down" of the people. What is an even scarier statistic, however, is how many of our countrymen have no education whatsoever - all the way from 1995-2001, the first full seven years of our newly-born democracy, our literacy rate (assumed as achieving Grade 7, by which point you are literate - the totally uneducated will follow) has remained at a paltry 68% - that means that just over 3 of every ten people you meet in South Africa is incapable of reading this. Totally incapable.

The reason I chose this as my NEXTSTEP is that in this country, we have a long history of community-based social systems - all of the original inhabitants of this area lived in small groups, relying on each other for safety, food, help, etc. The very system that the Barefoot College runs on (the community-based, hands-on study type teaching) would suit our environment perfectly. I propose that, at some point in the near future, a team of EVOKE members (hopefully including myself) attempt to repeat Sanjit Roy Bunker's success with his college by moving it here - and here is not the only place.

Zimbabwe, our neighbour (to the North) is a country with precious little infrastructure left. The dictatorship and poor command of the country by Zanu-PF and it's leader, Robert Mugabe, have effectively killed off the Zimbabwean economy, agriculture and social systems. Here, a grassroots-level campaign is needed to bring the country back to some semblance of normality, and a specialised Barefoot College, one for farming and looking after the land, would be superbly effective here.

In both of these situations, the social hierarchy is fairly similar - the small "kraal" being the home of the entire village, which would be nomadic (herders) or settled (farmers). In both cases, the ideas of the College that Bunker Roy started would hold true - children would choose to stay in the village, not only reconstructing economies but also preserving cultures that have survived (in some cases) many thousands of years. This is my NEXTSTEP plan, and I intend to execute it whenever the situation arises. This would hopefully improve several dangerous statistics in both countries - the economy in Zimbabwe, the literacy levels in both, and the HIV/AIDS statistics here - the Awareness campaigns that the government runs is lost on those who can't read. So let's teach them how to.

Views: 59

Comment by Alchemy on March 9, 2010 at 7:11pm
You have bravely proposed a path to healing troubled communities in two nations, Agent Beare. I have awarded you +10 Courage, and +10 Vision. Agent Falconer will also receive an award of +20 Spark.
Comment by Gene Becker on March 10, 2010 at 7:31pm
Peter, I think this is a very interesting idea. The Barefoot College could provide a useful template for designing your own efforts in SA and Zimbabwe. May I suggest a few areas for further development of your thinking?

* Can you attract a small team of EVOKE players to work on investigating the feasibility of such an initiative, and better defining its objectives?

* Would Barefoot College be willing to provide you with advice and insight on starting up a new venture, based on their nearly 40 years of experience?

* Are there other NGOs that might be interesting partners for you? For example CAMFED whose mission is to provide education for African girls and women - they have a team in Zimbabwe.

* You mention a rural focus and preserving village culture. One of the large scale trends we see in developing countries is the massive migration of rural people to cities, where they are able to escape the restrictive environment of their traditional rural cultures and find opportunities for education, jobs, and personal freedom. I don't know if this trend applies to your home region, but it is worth considering.

I hope this helps to encourage your thinking!
Comment by James Ream on March 11, 2010 at 8:47am
Looking forward to watching your evidence over the next 2 months.
Comment by Peter Beare on March 14, 2010 at 6:45pm
Thanks, Gene - I could certainly bring in a few more people, as this is a site that we are using as part of one of our school societies, so finding members to help is not a problem. I could always ask them! If this site has taught me anything, it's that making contact is not an issue. That sounds like a good idea - CAMFED? I'll see if they won't be able to help. It does, and in great depth - many members of the Xhosa, Zulu, Ndebele, Sotho, Pedi and Shona people moved to Johannesburg to work on the mines in the mid-1800s, the result of which was a funny language called Funagalo, which is a combination of elements of all of those above, and the many more who moved. Funagalo has four words for dig, but none for love. Shows the type of world they were living in. It is, certainly - but our traditional culture is a home-based one, a small-community based one, that strives off of little self-governing groups. This is less prevalent than it was four hundred years ago, say, but the infrastructure is still there. We just need to remember it. I'll look into this further. Thanks for the insight.
Comment by Michele Baron on March 14, 2010 at 7:02pm
I admire your depth of local and historical knowledge, and and motivation to share it, as well.


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