How we build a school
All villages where we build are chosen after close consultation with the local education head, and the villagers. We seek villages that are not only needy but where the people are committed to doing their part to help build, maintain, and resource the school. If the village provides 3 acres of land, and labour for transport and construction, then providing the structure is solid it can apply to the local education authority to be ‘sanctioned’, when paid qualified teachers will be supplied. Five of our community schools have already achieved this. The first task is thus to hold village meetings to agree three acres of land on which to build, and ensure the commitment of the villagers.
We then need to agree the design and budget, and source the materials. Almost everything needs to come from Bogalay, sometimes further. The foundations are usually dug in the rainy season (May – October) when the ground is workable. We provide a project manager and any skilled workers needed, the villagers provide labour in abundance.
All our community schools are built on concrete ‘feet’ (‘boots’ in Burmese) to keep them above the water in the rainy season, and they have a hardwood frame which will last for many years. The early schools then had walls of standard bamboo matting, and a roof of the ‘danee’ palm which is used throughout the delta. While this was cheap (about £3000 – £4000 per school), the matting panels and palm roofs are vulnerable to storms and animals and need renewing every few years.
We’re therefore now building with a similar frame, but a metal (zinc) roof, and a special and very strong bamboo panel. The frame and roof will effectively last for many years, short of another cyclone, and the walls for at least 15 – 20. At a cost of about £8000 we feel that this design combines durability, value, and low maintenance.