The project site is situated in the rural village Balaguina, in the Dogon region in Mali (declared Unesco World Heritage site in 1986), in the West African Sahel. The Dogon region is underdeveloped, as the government hardly invests in this remote region of the country. An important key to improve living conditions of the Dogon people is the development of education.
The former school in Balaguina was housed in a poorly constructed hangar which had deteriorated a lot . A new school building which meets the needs of the growing number of students had to be constructed.
The project doesn’t only concern the construction of a new school building. The organization of education and the realization of supportive functions like wells and housing for teachers are essential to make this project successful.
The school is situated along the road to Nando and other surrounding villages. The location was carefully chosen together with the inhabitants of the village. Various aspects played a role in the determination of the exact location of the school.
There was already a well near the terrain, which could be used during the building process and by the children of the school. The school serves not only children from the village of Balaguina, but also from three villages in the surrounding area. Therefore, the school should be easily attainable for 180-200 pupils from different villages.
By placing the school outside of the village Balaguina, on the road to surrounding villages, the school “belongs” to all of them. Another reason for this location outside of the village is that a school building doesn’t fit in the organization of traditional Dogon villages, which consist of family houses, men- and women houses and altars.
In the Dogon region different types of building methods and materials are applied , depending on the exact location. Clay is the most common building material, as various types of clay can be found throughout the whole Dogon region. In Balaguina, clay was the most obvious choice too. It is very important to build with locally available materials as much as possible. This is economically more interesting than importing materials, a sustainable solution and easily workable.
The village Balaguina lies on the Pinari plateau, about 40 kilometers south east of Mopti and 500 kilometers from Bamako, the capital. This area is situated in the Sahel zone, and characterized by the alternation of a dry and a rainy season. The rainy season lasts about five months between May and September. In this period, the area is green and flourishing and temperature reaches 40-45 C. The area turns into an arid landscape in the dry season. Although building activities continue year-round, the best period for construction work is after the rainy season. During the harvest period, which runs until October, the availability of workers is low as they work on the land.