Work about to start on new nursery school for African village

25 Mar 2011 12:55:00.000

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A team of 57 architecture students and staff from The University of Nottingham are packing their tool kits and heading to the province of Limpopo in South Africa this weekend to start work on building a new nursery school for 80 young children living in the rural village of Calais.

It will be the second school that students in the Department of Architecture and Built Environment have designed and built in Africa. They are working in partnership with Education Africa, a charity working to improve access to education across South Africa.

The 2nd and 5th year students have come up with a simple, environmentally friendly and functional design which allows and encourages the use of local suppliers and manufacturers – from the corrugated steel roof to the timber walls and cladding. The simple modular design will also reduce wastage and improve ease of construction for an unskilled workforce.

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Project Limpopo will provide places for 80 new born to six year old children from the Calais township. An architecturally interesting building using simple and inexpensive materials has been designed to enable local residents to extend and repair the project in the future – encouraging the important transfer of skills and knowledge.

As well as a school, the new building has been designed to act as a community centre in the hope that this will help develop the existing social structure in Limpopo.  

Professor Tim Heath, Head of the Department of Architecture and Built Environment, said: “The architecture students have worked incredibly hard to design a new pre-school facility for this extremely disadvantaged village in South Africa. They have also led an incredible fund raising campaign to enable them to now go and build the school which will transform the lives of hundreds of children and their community for many years to come.”

“This is a great practical opportunity for our students to give something to people less advantaged than themselves. They will be creating something of real value for people who don’t have very much, which is a real motivation for them and it will also be a great social and cultural experience for the students.”

The final design emerged from nine different schemes developed last year by the 2nd year students. These ideas were pitched against each other and the two successful plans were merged and developed by a group of 5th year students.

Sam Smith, a 5th year architecture student from Barnsley, said: “The major challenge has been developing a design which provides the right environment with the raw materials available to us,
within budget and achievable in the six week construction period. We know this is going to be a massive learning curve and anticipate that the heat could be a major problem but everyone is now looking forward to getting stuck in.”

Not only have the 50 strong team of students had to design and build the school from scratch they have also had the mammoth task of raising £150,000, with match funding from the University, to enable them to help fund the project – from the raw materials and tools to flights and accommodation.

In 2009 a group of 2nd and 5th year students built a pre-school for 150 two to six year olds in the township of Jouberton 160 km south of Johannesburg. A team visited the school last summer to see for themselves how it had helped transform the lives of local school children.

That project had a remarkable impact on the students and inspired many more to apply to join Project Limpopo. As part of this year’s project students will be going back to Jouberton to undertake any repairs and improvements.

The partnership between Education Africa and The University of Nottingham is unique in that the projects are ongoing and it is hoped to undertake similar projects over the coming years.

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’, has award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘Europe’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking, a league table of the world’s most environmentally-friendly higher education institutions, which ranked Nottingham second in the world overall.

The University is committed to providing a truly international education for its 40,000 students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around its campuses in the UK and Asia.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranked the University 7th in the UK by research power. The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health.
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More information is available from Professor Tim Heath

on +44 (0) 115 9514887,

Lindsay Brooke

Lindsay Brooke - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

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