top of page
  • Writer's pictureWhabout 

African School Project

Benga, Malawi

By- Whabout (@wha.bou.t)

"There are schools that are cages and there are schools that are wings. Schools that are cages exist for birds to unlearn the art of flight. Caged birds are birds under control. Caged, its owner can take them wherever they want. Caged birds always have an owner. They are no longer birds. Because the essence of the birds is the flight. Schools that are wings do not love caged birds. What they love are birds in flight. They exist to give birds the courage to fly. To teach how to fly, that they can not do, because the flight is already born within the birds. The flight can not be taught. It can only be encouraged." [Rubem Alves]

What should a school want to be in order for its birds to have the courage to fly? The primary function of education is learning, which is an exchange that happens in the collective. In that way we come to understand that the school is no longer physically delimited. It gains space. Space that leaks without asking permission. Space that is the streets, the city, the nature. The school happens everywhere, because in all places we are capable of learning. And when its walls are diluted in the community, the school becomes both the transforming agent of the territory and the territory itself.

By extrapolating the walls of the classroom, not only learning is impacted, but also the daily lives of families and communities. The neighborhood becomes the stage for the experiences, the territory becomes the study room. The school opens up, recognizing local issues and particularities, valuing cultural plurality and diversity as important treasures. A place of human interactions, exchanges and encounters between individuals and the environment.

The school then becomes a means for education that is permanent and that takes place beyond the school stage, which teaches to see the world and to deal with the daily challenges. Because educating is a tool for transformation, for citizenship. A tool to fight back the difficulties.

The proposed school expands the boundaries, returns the look to the surroundings and gains relation with the territory. Lake Malawi houses educational bases at its margins now, creating a connection network that brings different places together. External and floating "classrooms" that function as laboratories for experiments and connections, providing awareness of the importance of environmental conservation.

A learning cycle that also reflects in the community, creating connections that encourage discussions in the public spaces of the neighborhoods, in the molds of the Agoras of ancient Greece. It is the creation of an extremely important school-community connection for social and economic transformation. Classrooms are designed in groups of four units, so that they can be expanded over time. They can also be community empowerment spaces on weekends.

It’s encourage that the school opens its doors and also bring the city in, creating workshops and activities that can generate knowledge and new skills to the population, in order to combat the challenges of daily life and raise awareness about issues such as environment, health, education, economic growth and gender equality.

Agriculture, animals and infrastructure itself also become pedagogical elements. It’s taught to collect rainwater, the sewage treatment in evapotranspiration tanks, renewable energy, reuse of organic waste for composting and recyclable waste in art workshops. Everything is part of a cyclical system where nothing is discarded, allowing resources to be reused and remain circulating and feeding the cycle itself indefinitely in a safe and healthy way for both humans and nature. All materials and construction techniques seek low cost and appreciation of local workforce in addition to the participation and involvement of the community. The main intention is that approaching the local reality, there will be a community empowerment through the training of this workforce as well as the sense of territorial belonging.

The school also has systems and strategies of natural ventilation. In this way, internal spaces are cooled during high temperatures in the summer without the aid of mechanical means. The large openings in opposite walls provide comfort ventilation while the upper openings through the intercalated bricks, also on opposite walls, have been positioned to capture the east wind by cross ventilation of the air. The metal sheets of the roof is also distanced from the volumes allowing the air to circulate through the structure without directly heating the brick ceiling of the rooms. In this way, more than teaching, the school must break with the physical barriers of the territory and become part of it, being a means for educate and learn. It must recognize the potentialities and individualities of each student, giving voice and wings so that the bare feet of those boys and girls can get off the ground and be able to face the challenges of this forgotten world.

bottom of page