The Barefoot workshop is one long room, housed in a colonial-era building on the college’s ‘old’ 1972 campus (a newer campus was set up about a kilometre away in 1987). Though free to sit wherever they please along the work-table, the women typically cluster according to their countries and those they can converse with — a woman beside Christa and Susanna from north Namibia doesn’t speak Khoekhoe, but communicates through gestures.
Across from the Namibians, Monica Milega from north Tanzania’s Meatu district works determinedly on her lamp. “Things are very good [at the college and in Tilonia]”, says the 42-year-old farmer and mother of eight. Though language has been a bit of a problem, Monica says she hasn’t had much difficulty adjusting to life in India, adding that her cows, goats and donkeys are being taken care of while she’s away. Smiling gently, she says that her main goal is to ensure she is able to teach other villagers what she has learned here. At the other end of the table, and speaking very little English, 35-year-old Yatsa Gambai of Sierra Leone pipes up in agreement: the important thing, she says, is that they “teach other people” when they go back home in September. Susanna says the first thing she plans to do on returning to Tsaurob is put up lights in her house: “We’ll light our house first so people can see what we have brought back with us.”
Though happy with the Barefoot solar scheme, Christa and Susanna can’t understand why the program has only selected women in their 30s-onwards. “They should have young people who have just finished school here,” says Christa. Pointing towards a woman in her 50s, she adds, “It’s a waste of time and money if you bring people who don’t understand [what the teacher is saying]. If you don’t understand, how can you take it back with you [to teach others]?”As Christa finishes her sentence, the older woman pulls out a solder-iron and busily gets to work. — her lamp is nearly done.
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