Sanjit ‘Bunker’ Roy
Founder and Director, Barefoot College
Sanjit ‘Bunker’ Roy received his formal education in The Doon School (1956-62) and St. Stephens College Delhi University (1962-1967). He was the Indian National Squash Champion in 1965, 1967 and 1971. His “real” education started when he dug open wells for drinking water as an unskilled labourer for 5 years (1967-1971).
It was after he was exposed to the most extraordinary knowledge and skills that the rural poor have that he established the only fully solar electrified Barefoot College in the deserts of Rajasthan in India 40 years ago. It is the only College in India built by the poor and managed by the rural poor who earn less than $ 1/day. Almost the only College left in India that respects and practices the work style and life style of Mahatma Gandhi. It is a College where the teacher is the learner and the learner the teacher. It is the only College in India where traditional knowledge and practical skills of the poor are given more importance and priority than paper degrees or qualifications. Prof. Roy is a great believer in Mark Twain who said, “Never Let School Interfere with your Education.”
In the 20 years that the demystified and decentralized community based Barefoot approach has been implemented in over 30 of the Least Developed Countries, a total of 36,000 houses in 1,024 villages have been solar electrified by nearly 300 illiterate rural grandmothers. Without using the written or spoken word they have been trained in 6 months using only sign language in India in the Barefoot College to be solar engineers under a scheme called ITEC of the Government of India.
The approach and work of the Barefoot College has been recognized globally: (AGFUND) Award for promoting Volunteerism, From HRH Talal Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia, Geneva, Switzerland (2001); The Stockholm Challenge Award for Information Technology (Category Environment) Stockholm Sweden (October 2002); Schwab Foundation Award for Outstanding Social Entrepreneurs, World Economic Forum (2002); The Tech Museum For Innovation Benefiting Humanity, The NASDEQ Stock Market Education Award, San Jose California (November 2002); St. Andrews Prize for the Environment, Scotland (May 2003); Ashden Award for Sustainable Energy, UK (2003); Tyler Prize, California, USA (April 2004); Skoll Foundation (2005); US$1 million ALCAN Award for Sustainability (2006); SUEZ Environment-Water for All Foundation-Prize Paris (July 2009); Robert Hill Award For Promotion of Solar Energy: 24th European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference, Hamburg Germany (September 2009); Sierra Club Environment Award (2009); Conde Nast Environmental Award, USA (2009); and the Blue Planet Prize, Japan (2011).
Bunker Roy was identified as one of the 50 environmentalists who could save the planet by The Guardian in 2008 and as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2010.