Until you’re standing in a school yard with 1000 kids and four dilapidated, crumbling classrooms and ten young, but committed teachers, it’s difficult to understand the extreme poverty coupled with this very unlikely sense of hope and potential. That hope and potential is what ultimately drew us into this project and is what continues to spur us on.
We began with the idea of using sustainable building techniques like natural daylighting and passive ventilation, not because it’s fashionable, but because it was clear it was the only way to make the buildings economical, functional and comfortable in that climate without the aid of western technology.
With scarce local resources, we had to get creative about what we used and what we could get access to locally - literally in the ground on the school’s site. All of the work was done by hand, with no access to power and limited access to tools. Concrete blocks were formed one by one with hand moulds, gravel for the concrete mix was crushed down from large rocks by parents, water was carted from the village well by the students. The whole community participated in this endeavor.
Sited to take advantage of the position of the sun and direction of prevailing winds, the large classrooms are well-lit and ventilated. The shaded verandah keeps the building cool and the students protected from the elements. The roof overhangs directs water from the roof into planters and vegetation around the building which has a cooling effect of its own.
More importantly, this new building has become the pride of the local village and evidence that community building pays dividends. What started with 1000 kids is now 1600. What began as four classrooms is now twelve. Six hundred children that weren't in school in 2009 are now attending Chiutika Basic School every day.