Semonkong is a small town in rural Lesotho, whose residents are predominantly reliant on subsistence agriculture. Currently, a school of up to 400 pupils and 7 grade levels is occupying a single space, borrowed from a church. A local community group has resolved to build a new school, is raising money (with some outside assistance), and has committed to undertake a self-built project to gain adequate space, assembly space, and play spaces for the students.
Bantu Design and Research operates under the premise that architecture, urbanism, and built environment policy may become a way of addressing the myriad needs associated with economic, environmental, and infrastructural development in resource-limited areas. It was formed in 2014 in Johannesburg by Garret Gantner and Costanza La Mantia, who together have over two decades of international practice experience, much of it across the African continent. Bantu was the recipient of an Acknowledgement Prize at the 2014 Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction (Africa & Middle East) for it’s collaborative project “Co-op Capacity Building: Community Farming and Market Hub” in Kigali, Rwanda.
The Semonkong Community School is being supported by Francois Snyman, who lives in Semonkong and is managing work in the field, and by the community group that has organized the project.
The community has already raised 90,000 South African rand (approximately $6,500 USD) for the project. Some material, including local stone and thatch, will be collected by community members from available supplies around the land, so material costs will be kept low. Community members will self-build the school to the extent possible, also keeping labour costs low.
An additional approximately $35,000 USD is needed for some material purchases (e.g. wood, cement, sand, electrical cabling) and basic building tools.
We could use a basic structural engineering review, and technical support for eco-toilet design and phytoremediation treatment of greywater.
The push for ‘modernization’ in small communities like Semonkong is quite strong. The School’s design seeks to take vernacular construction sensibilities that are culturally embedded in the place, and refine them in order to allow them to be seen as relevant to today’s contemporary society, thereby preserving a cultural identity without sacrificing the community’s desire to be making economic and developmental progress.
The project is indirectly linked to the Semonkong Hospital Project, led by a non-profit organization which has been active in Semonkong for 9 years (see external link below). A participatory process with the Semonkong community is underway for that project, which is assisting in developing an impact strategy to manage the decision-making for economic, environmental, and community empowerment aspects of the project. The project intends to recruit a construction team from within the community to the extent possible, providing upskilling initiatives such as tradecraft development, entrepreneurial incubation, veterinary support and agricultural improvements. As part of the upskilling processes specific to construction, the project envisions a series of smaller-scale pilot projects as testing grounds for the tradecraft training, standards improvement and, potentially, the basis for formation of a leadership team of construction workers.
Description: Community-built school in resource-limited rural Lesotho
Design: Bantu Design and Research
Consultants: none to date
Building status: proposal (Buildify submission)
Construction period: To be determined; estimated early 2017
Demolished: N/A - no demolition
Needs: funding support, advice
Location: Semonkong, Lesotho
Coordinates: 29°50'48.6'' S, 28°3'45.2'' E
Tags: community, craftsmanship, empowerment, low budget, vernacular
Project ID: 622
Published: 18 September 2016
Last updated: 7 November 2016
(images have individual licenses)