The Solar Night Schools Programme, The Barefoot College ∗ India

Migrants education, solar energy and drinking water solutions, healthcare, communication and culture, social empowerment. 

Tilonia, Rajasthan, India

The Barefoot College’s Night Schools Program in India provides opportunities to receive education at night for children who would otherwise be excluded from school – typically, young girls, who are often required by their families to assist in household duties while their brothers attend school.

The setting of the Solar Night Schools Programme is rural India, where despite the fact that the number of public schools has increased during the last few decades, many families still cannot bear the opportunity cost of sending their children, especially girls, to study. Instead, many children are required to assist with household duties such as looking after the animals and crops, collecting water for the family, and helping with other subsistence activities. As a result, the children from these rural areas are unable to attend the local public schools because they open only during the day.

In 1975, the Barefoot College understood this problem and started the Solar Night Schools Programme in the area of Rajasthan. Since then, the program has followed an alternative schooling model that has been extended to many other states of the country, guaranteeing the education of more than 75,000 children that, otherwise, would most probably be excluded from school.

This success has been attributed to the program’s ability to adapt to the particular socio-economic and cultural contexts of the children and their families, which it does by following four main strategies.

The class schedule will accommodate and change according to the children’s needs — schools operate at night and attendance is flexible.

The program integrates the schools within a network of other development programs operated by the organization, that address the diverse necessities of the children and their families, enhancing their capacity to attend school — health services, drinking water, etc.

The programme has decentralized the decision-making process (it has created Village Education Committees and a Children’s Parliament!), giving schools the ability to keep relevant and effective for the communities — by taking advantage of their inputs.

The night schools adopt an intercultural education model. This values not only the mainstream curricula but also local knowledge, resources, and skills. These have also helped to make education relevant for children and their families, rather than a curriculum that, by focusing only in the former, would encourage migration to the cities (and, possibly, a life in an urban slum).