In January 2017, the classes began using the new Biology, Chemistry and Physics laboratories which represent the first phase of construction at the school at Milembe Secondary School in Misungwi, Tanzania. They respond to recent Tanzanian government directives that all public secondary schools be equipped with science laboratories, to meet 21st century demands for training in science, math and technology. The project won a 2017 Honor Award from the New England Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
Funded by U.S. NGO Africa Schoolhouse and built by local craftspeople, the structures incorporate simple materials and local construction techniques, such as cement blocks cast on site, in new ways. Designs by Scattergood Design of Portland, Maine, with engineering by Harold Mtyana of Misungwi, enhance learning and sustainability.
Large windows on four sides, as well as clerestories and shaded skylights, provide natural light and ventilation while minimizing solar gain in the learning spaces.
Custom louvers, prototyped by Scattergood Design, were manufactured by artisans at the nearby Bujora Museum for about half the cost of conventional aluminium windows imported from China. Blades made out of translucent fiberglass roofing pivot on tubes set in a wood frame. They provide almost 100% ventilation as well as indirect light when open, and protection from rain and security when closed.
Roof overhangs shade the walls and openings, and gutters collect rainwater into storage barrels. An elevated tank feeds water by gravity into the Chemistry and Biology labs.
Cast-in-place lab benches offer two sinks and propane burners for up to six students. Stools and desks were also crafted in Bujora.
Though piped for future lab use, two buildings currently serve as classrooms to relieve overcrowding at the school, where four existing classrooms have served 300 students in four grade levels.
The three separate buildings are clustered around a terrace with local stone walls and steps that can host school-wide debates and presentations in the shade of fruit trees. The project also included a deep-water well, accessible to local villagers, and composting latrines.
Rural Misungwi District on the southern shores of Lake Victoria is one of the poorest in the region around Mwanza, the country’s second-largest city, and ranks second to last academically. Milembe School will be the first government campus dedicated to girls in the District. Less than 1% of girls in Tanzania complete secondary school. Limited family resources, excessive domestic duties, early marriage and long, unsafe travel distances all mean that girls are the last family members chosen for schooling and the first to drop out.
Africa Schoolhouse (www.africaschoolhouse.org) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing quality schools, medical care, job training and clean water to rural villages in Northern Tanzania. Every project is a collaboration that involves taking direction from community liaisons and local government representatives so that we can build the most effective facilities possible. They care deeply about the environmental, structural and social sustainability of all our projects. Since 2008, they have built new school campuses and structures and renovated existing ones in the region around Mwanza.
Scattergood Design principals Pamela Hawkes FAIA and Scott Teas AIA spent three months in Tanzania in 2013 as volunteers with Africa Schoolhouse. They researched girls’ secondary schools throughout the region and prepared a phased master plan for a campus to accommodate 400 girls in four to six class levels.