Architecture students get their hands dirty to boost rural South African village

13 Mar 2013 13:00:20.497

Architecture students from The University of Nottingham are heading to rural South Africa to turn their sketches, plans and 3D models into reality — and they’re providing a deprived village with an educational facility in the process.

The Ago Sikolo project — which translates as ‘build a school’ in the local South African dialect — is giving 36 second year architecture students the chance to see their designs through to completion; even if it means sacrificing their Easter holidays.

The first of two teams will head to South Africa on Saturday 23 March before the second team takes over two weeks later. The students will construct three architecturally interesting but simply designed classrooms and a toilet block from locally sourced materials to extend the educational facility in remote Calais Village in the province of Limpopo. The existing buildings were constructed two years ago by another group of the University’s architecture students.
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This is the third time in four years that students have made the trip to South Africa. Each time the University has teamed up with Education Africa, an NGO working to improve access to education in the country.

Helping disadvantaged children

These projects have made a significant difference to the lives and educational opportunities of hundreds of disadvantaged children that have been educated in the schools. They have also had an impact on the local communities who have embraced the projects and made use of the facilities for other events and social gatherings. Additionally, Education Africa provides the on-going support and teacher-training to ensure the school will flourish for years to come.

As with the existing buildings, the new additions will be made from inexpensive materials so that they can be repaired by locals if and when necessary.

The students are paying for their own flights, but they also need to raise £1,000 each to fund the project, which they are doing with curry nights and cocktail evenings. The money raised will be used to buy all of the materials they need and nearly £30,000 has already been raised.

Sponsor the project

The project is even more of a challenge than in previous years as the government has scrapped its match funding, which previously meant a doubling of the University’s efforts. You can sponsor the project here:

Professor Tim Heath, Chair in Architecture and Urban Design at the University, said: “The academic, professional and social experience for our students is incredible and working on these projects has positively impacted on their employability.

“However, the most important and significant part of these projects is the difference it makes to the hundreds of children that have the opportunity to be educated in the schools and the local communities who make use of the facilities for events. We’re giving something to a community that doesn’t have anything. What we’re trying to do is not just provide a shelter but provide something that’s stimulating as well — so it opens their eyes to opportunities.”

Nick Keen, one of the 2nd year architecture students heading to South Africa, is excited about getting his hands dirty. The 20-year-old said: “The project we’re working on now — it’s really good — but you’re never going to see it to the depth that we’re going to see with the South Africa project. We just see buildings as plans and maybe a 3D model or something; we don’t really learn what it’s like when you actually build it. To learn skills about what real life architecture is, that’s going to be great — nothing comes close to this kind of thing.”

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottinghamhas 42,000 students at award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It was ‘one of the first to embrace a truly international approach to higher education’, according to the Sunday Times University Guide 2013. It is also one of the most popular universities among graduate employers, one of the world’s greenest universities, and winner of the Times Higher Education Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Development’. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong and the QS World Rankings.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise. The University aims to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health. The University won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for its research into global food security.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest ever fundraising campaign, will deliver the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news

Story credits

Professor Tim Heath, Head of the Department of Architecture and Built Environment, The University of Nottingham, on +44 (0)115 951 4887,

Fraser Wilson - Communications Officer

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 846 6691 Location: University Park

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