Digital Night Schools
A solution for quality digital non-formal education to the last mile anywhere in the world, beyond energy situation, infrastructure, connectivity.
Many rural children cannot attend day school due to family responsibilities - farming, livestock breeding and household chores. Then there are social barriers such as not allowing girls to attend school away from home. Value of education is undermined in remote tribal areas and education often excludes the subject of citizenship, rights and civic responsibility, leaving historically oppressed communities without a voice, opinion or participation in governance.
We have built schools, but access to quality education is largely limited. Many Government schools offer poor teachers, poor learning environment and do not tailor content to place based needs, effectively offering an urban education to rural Children. Alongside, the ‘digital divide’ is widening exponentially for rural communities who lack access to energy. With roughly one-fourth of the world’s rural population still without access to electricity, vulnerable tribal communities are excluded from the digital revolution – a grave situation as the Government migrates more and more benefits, entitlements & subsidies to digital delivery.
Leveraging its 40 year deep experience is running effective night schools, Barefoot College evolved the Solar Digital Night School (DNS) model in 2015 as a complete solution for quality digital non-formal education for children excluded from schooling in remote off grid underprivileged communities. Following a highly participatory approach, villagers are mobilized to setup night schools where children aged 6-14 years gather at night to learn by the light of a solar lantern. Barefoot trains motivated local individuals identified by villagers to become community teachers who can provide hands on, practical education to children in an informal environment that utilizes innovative learning tools and digital aids to teach literacy, numeracy, scientific skills, environmental sustainability and democratic values.”. Our model includes:
- Solar powered digital learning tools - Edu-box Solar projector, tablets & offline content repository
- A locally customizable curriculum with a pro-girl rural STEAM learning approach that’s honors practical knowledge
-Teachers training module that demystifies technology and builds teachers from grassroots
- M&E framework which remotely tracks every child’s learning through offline sync
With roughly one-fourth of the world’s rural population still without access to electricity (data), our model is a relevant and necessary edu-solution, that can, through locally created digital content, not only educate children fringe tribal communities but also bring their cultural heritage and opinions on gender, conservation, rights violation right into the global mainstream.
Watch our elevator pitch:
Where our solution team is headquartered or located:Tilonia, Rajasthan, India
The dimensions of the Challenge our solution addresses:
What makes our solution innovative:
All 4 parts of the model showcases innovation:
- The technology is designed to operate off-grid & offline, ground tested for easy user interface that allows digitally novice users to embrace tech than being intimidated by it.
- The curricula holistic in balancing state syllabus with STEAM concepts and a value based approach, putting deep admiration in traditional livelihoods.
- Our teachers training program works for those without previous pedagogical or digital experience, pushing them towards becoming self-learning creators of localized digital content
- Our monitoring framework starts with village ownership and then extends to a robust offline-synced data-driven approach
How technology is integral to our solution:
The Barefoot in-house assembled Solar Powered Projector is an easy-to-use one-switch solution to transform a community space into a digital classroom. Wirelessly paired with tablets it allows teachers deeper engagement and seamless interaction. An offline router with pre-loaded curated content simulating an offline ‘internet’, successful pilots on AR and VR with innovative applications in gender education, is some complementing off-grid offline technology that we use. The curriculum delivered in the night school is complemented by digital applications and multimedia including content created by teachers. Tablets allow us to track every child with digital data that is synced periodically.
Our solution goals over the next 12 months:
Over the next 12 months we plan to heavily invest in fine-tuning our technology, content, training and monitoring processes and testing them for scalability in 40 night school across India. We are professionalizing our operations and setting up structures that ensure effective operations and continues innovation. We are building a capable team at the remote village of Tilonia, who shall be equipped to handle thousands of schools across the planet benefitting millions of children. We are finalizing partners who shall embark with us on this remarkable journey of grassroots transformation. We are exploring pilots in other Global South countries.
Our vision over the next three to five years to grow and scale our solution to affect the lives of more people:
Our strategic vision is to develop the model as the necessary global edu-tech solution for one-fourth of the world’s rural population still without access to electricity. Through multi-stakeholder partnerships with governments, (with EOIs already from those of Pacific islands, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi and Tanzania, we hope to move towards greater advocacy for alternate models to fill gaps in Government school structures. We intend to gain momentum in our scale-up from the 3 rd year creating 1,000+ Barefoot schools through partner organizations as we move to a consultancy role. By 5 years we will have first level outcome data worldwide.
Our promotional video:
The key characteristics of the populations who will benefit from our solution in the next 12 months:
The regions where we will be operating in the next 12 months:
The countries where we currently operate:
Where we plan to expand in the next 12 months:
How we will reach and retain our customers or beneficiaries:
Night Schools undergo a participatory process ensuring village ownership. The community expresses interest for a Solar Digital Night School through our ground partner network who handles the mobilization. Subsequently, a survey is conducted and a Village Education Committee (VEC) is formed to identify community space for school, potential individuals to be trained as teachers, and for regular monitoring. Since the VEC primarily comprises of parents, there is direct ownership and attendance of student as well as the teacher is maintained. Except migratory families, we have successfully retained students as the digital night school provides a safe engaging space to them.
How many people we are currently serving with our solution:
Over the years the night schools have directly benefitted 80,000+ marginalized children of 6 to 14 years of age, majority being girls. They belong to exploited and the impoverished communities living on less than $ 1/day. History of oppression of their caste/tribe, have left most of these children without any aspiration, hope or opinion regarding their social rights. Our model envisions flipping the scenario promoting self-confidence, pride in their local heritage and improving digital awareness including information access, creating future Barefoot leaders. s. The model also benefits the community teachers – energetic motivated youth from the village.
How many people we will be serving with our solution in the 12 months and the next 3 years:
This year, through 40 schools we shall directly benefit 1600+ marginalized children and through social action, the children shall indirectly benefit 40 villages. Through our 700 hours curriculum covering literacy, numeracy, environmental awareness, basic science, digital literacy, gender discussions, rights awareness and health, we shall see improvement in learning outcomes within 12 months. Over 3 years, our reach is expected to expand to 20000+ children, with positive outcomes in participation of girl children, higher gender tolerance , documentation of local wisdom, values of citizenry, self-learning attitude, higher level of confidence, communication and expression in children, enrolment in government schools.
How our solution team is organized:Non-Profit
Explaining our organization:
How many people work on our solution team:7
How many years we have been working on our solution:3-4 years
The skills our solution team has that will enable us to attract the different resources needed to succeed and make an impact:
We are a rich mix of dynamic professionals and grassroots individuals who have gained experience from work and are non-formally educated. Both groups have a strong sense of ownership since for the professionals it’s an inspiration while for the local group it’s their own experience modelled into a proposition. This results not only in a healthy work environment where ideas are balanced with reality check, but also in a go-getting attitude which attracts like-minded young brilliant individuals from all over the planet to come and work with us. This same attitude gains trust in partners, collaborators and donors.
Our revenue model:
We are a non-profit with a digital classroom proposition of technology, curriculum, teachers’ training and M&E framework that is replicable and scalable. Our strategy is to expand at phase 1 level to various regions of the Global South in order to create examples. This phase is expected to be grant funded. Thereafter, we expect to consult other organizations to setup Barefoot schools against a fee that sustains us. For the sustainability of the schools, we look into:
- Financial Sustainability - In the longer run, our model integrates with the government system, creating a ready set of learners who are capable to partake in the system as well as a community which is initiated towards education.
- Sustainable Operations - Can the community manage the school without us? The whole Barefoot Model is around sustainability of projects, that is we put capacity right in the community teachers, why VEC’s are created and made responsible for the functioning of the school.
- Sustainability Education - We are creating thinking citizens who are sensitive towards the issues of their local realm as well that of the planet, and can contribute through positive sustainable choices - creating a sustainable inclusive society in the future.
Why we are applying to Solve:
Ours is a much needed model for bringing quality digital education to off-grid offline remote villages in LDCs. Having readied a tested model with proven impact, a ready roadmap for growth, this is the right time for us to scale. We seek out support to better our tech, expand our partnerships, identify donors and supporters, capacity building and create the right language to communicate our model for visibility. We are confident that SOLVE being a platform with deep knowledge and connections in the education space, shall be the ideal partner and mentor for us.
The key barriers for our solution:
A large part of our effort is presently geared towards taking a non formal pedagogy and capturing it in a formal framework, as well as to create transparent accountable processes. This requires substantial capacity building of the Tilonia grassroots implementation team so as to equip them to deliver quicker, faster and more directly. Also, fine tuning technology, curricular collaborations, streamlining processes, advocacy with government in LDCs, are some of our other barriers. The Solve platform can definitely help us with technology advice, partner network, organizational mentorship and visibility required for advocacy.
The types of connections and partnerships we would be most interested in if we became Solvers:
- Mr. Shuvajit Payne Head of Education, Barefoot College