Students build school in South African township

13 Jan 2009 15:04:00.000


Students from The University of Nottingham are building a pre-school facility in South Africa as part of their degree studies.

From the early design stages to the construction of the pre-school in South Africa’s Jouberton township in Klerksdorp, the students have been involved in the project from the very beginning.

Education Africa, a charity improving access to education in South Africa, have partnered with the University’s School of the Built Environment and are supported by Anglo Gold Ashanti, a global gold mining group which has donated the land which the preschool will be built on.

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The pre-school is for pupils aged two to six years old. Currently, children are being educated in a shack with very limited facilities. The new building will initially cater for 100 pupils, but this figure is expected to increase as the project progresses.

The pre-school itself will comprise of four classrooms, with the flexibility to ‘join’ some of these into a larger space, an office, a kitchen, toilet facilities, storage and sheltered and external play spaces. 180 students have worked up initial designs for the school as part of their Bachelor of Architecture and MEng Architecture and Environmental Design course, which includes lectures and workshops examining kindergarten prototypes, impact of climatic conditions and local construction methods.

The designs also looked beyond the needs of the children at the social infrastructure of Klerksdorp, exploring how the new facilities could be used by the broader community. These projects are now being reviewed and shortlisted. A final shortlist of six designs will make up the final shortlist in January. Fundraising is also underway to raise the £75,000 needed to build the school, which is on schedule for completion in early May 2009.

The University’s Annual Fund Grants Programme has awarded £25,000 to the project. Funds will also be raised by students through raffles, sports and social events. The University is also seeking sponsorship and donations from UK companies.

The 2009 Easter break will see 30 students from the University heading to Jouberton to help build the school, directed by Adrian Friend, Studio Leader in the School of the Built Environment and practicing architect. Recently nominated for Young Architect of the Year 2008, Friend’s experience of building award winning architecture will prove invaluable in creating a lasting legacy and a blueprint for future South African Nursery Schools.

It is hoped that students from the School of the Built Environment will work with Education Africa every year on a different sustainable building project, making this a regular feature on the degree curriculum. Students have worked with both academic and professional tutors on the project as part of their assessed coursework.

Jouberton is a predominantly black, deprived township in Klerksdorp, a gold mining area 250km south west of Johannesburg. It is the birthplace of Nobel Peace Prize laureate
Desmond Tutu.

Tim Heath, Professor of Architecture and Urban Design and Head of the School of the Built Environment, visited Jouberton in July earlier this year to meet members of the local community and visit the current school.

“This project will make a dramatic difference to the education and development of disadvantaged children in South Africa. The current pre-school is housed in a dilapidated shack and the proposed new facility will create fantastic opportunities for the children and enable community outreach activities,” he said.

“In addition, this is a unique chance for our students to enhance their own professional skills and personal development by making a significant difference to the lives of those less fortunate than themselves”.

Adrian Friend, Studio Leader and Director, Friend and Company Architects, said: "Our aim is to create a blueprint for nursery schools in South Africa with architecture that inspires and unites the people of Klerksdorp in a common appreciation for simple, well-built buildings. Importantly our teaching combines undergraduate and postgraduate students working on a rich and varied programme of studies that ensure no detail is left untouched so the children who use the school will have the best possible learning environment."

Sam Critchlow, a second-year student working on the Education Africa project, said: “For me this project has brought to light what architecture should be about. I am passionate about this project, the people and what can be achieved here.”

James Urdang, Executive Director of Education Africa, said:  “It is very important for the ‘haves’ from the Western World to understand and share with those who ‘have not’ — this is so often taken for granted and something even as simple as a basic structure to learn and teach in. It is also extremely important that the students taking part in one of Education Africa’s Social Architecture projects have a learning experience that will assist them in the world of work, typically problem solving and finding solutions that will need to be found on a continued basis.”

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.

It provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named Entrepreneurial University of the Year at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.

Photographs of the current pre-school facilities in Jouberton and Professor Tim Heath’s visit are available from the Communications Office at the details below.

Story credits

  Professor Tim Heath

on +44 (0)115 951 4887,

Tara De Cozar

Tara De Cozar - Internal Communications Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 846 8560 Location: University Park

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