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Al Hidaya Transitional School


Client: Al Hidaya Vidyalaya,

Address: Hidaya Puram, Pottuvil, Ampara District

Number of Children: 172 children

Project: 8 Classrooms, admin block inc. principal's office and store room, 1 Additional Toilet, fresh water supply and perimeter boundary wall.

Completed: March 2006.

Project Outcome:

A Transitional School has been constructed comprising 8 Classrooms, Principal's Office, Store Room, 1 Additional Toilet, fresh water supply and perimeter boundary wall.

The School is expected to be occupied for some period between three and five years, or until the permanent school is complete.

Construction of the new school was not permitted on the original pre-tsunami site as it was located directly on the beach thereby falling within the "Buffer Zone", a strip of coastline varying in width, designated by the Government to be left untouched by re-construction work. Whether rightly or wrongly, the School effectively lost their land through this directive and the Government of Sri Lanka offered no form of assistance to the School in obtaining new land for construction of either the transitional or the permanent School.

Complex land deals and exchanges therefore had to be negotiated by the School, which the Architecture For Humanity (AFH) project tried to facilitate. When the permanent School is constructed and the AFH Transitional School is vacated, the latter will be taken over for residential purposes. Two families will occupy the site, one of whom will be able to use the Office & Store building as their home. Both families will benefit from the water and sanitation facilities provided and also from the perimeter wall structure and entrance gates; a privacy and security feature considered to be of the utmost importance in Muslim domestic culture.

Project Beneficiaries:

The project beneficiaries include 172 pupils and 8 Teachers including the Principal, of the Al Hidaya School. The children are between the ages of 5 and 9, they are boys and girls, all of Muslim faith.

Miraculously no children from the School were killed in the tsunami of December 2004. Although the original school was located directly on the beach and was entirely destroyed, mercifully the wave struck on a Sunday when the school was closed. Many of the children have been otherwise affected however, with lost and damaged houses and parents' loss of livelihoods.

Description of Structure/Project:

Upgrading of existing temporary classrooms - 2,800 ft.2 (1400 ft.2 each):

- Extension of floor area to provide additional classrooms and additional space to existing classrooms.

- Replacement of corrugated tin walls with rendered masonry construction.

- Replacement of roof and roof support structure to provide better resistance to the heat. Projected eaves provide increased protection from direct sunlight and heavy monsoon rains.

Construction of new Administration Building - 550 ft.2:

- Principal's Office.

- Store Room.

Construction of water and sanitation facilities:

- Electric pump and housing,

- Water storage tank and support structure,

- 1 new toilet with septic tank.

Construction of boundary wall to school perimeter - 9,400 ft.2.:

- Providing security and a safe place for the children to play.

- Providing a visual barrier to permit uninterrupted studies.

Prior to 26 December 2004 the Al Hidaya School stood less than 50 yards from the sea on the edge of Pottuvil, a small town on the east coast of Sri Lanka. Pottuvil, in the Ampara District of the Eastern Province, has a population of 12,000 inhabitants and bore the full brunt of the tsunami that hit this coastline a full 30 minutes before hitting some other areas of Sri Lanka. In this district 10,436 people died and many more were injured, 66,681 homes were destroyed and 75,172 people displaced. The majority of the population in this area are either Tamil or Muslim. In Pottuvil itself, which is largely Muslim, 6,676 families were affected.

The Al Hidaya School has been temporarily relocated to a different site, a short distance inland from where the original school's foundations lie. Here, minimal temporary structures had been provided while the School awaited a permanent building.

Architecture For Humanity first visited the School in September 2005. It was immediately apparent that their current situation was entirely unacceptable and we entered into discussions with the School Principal, Mr Sheriff and his colleagues. At that time the school had been advised that an NGO would provide a new school complete with all facilities, in accordance with the Governement's specification for tsunami-affected schools. However, they were not aware of who would be building the school, where it would be built, when construction would start and more importantly when construction would end.

The temporary structures being used previously by the School were inadequate; the Principal's office comprising reclaimed timber and a canvas sheet, as did one of the classrooms. Corrugated tin sheets were being used as low-level walls to protect from sand and dust on other classroom buildings but the children were cutting themselves regularly on the sharp edges. The toilet was of poor quality cement blocks that crumbled in the hand, there was no door and the squatting pan was installed the wrong way round.

With the prospect that the school might function under these present conditions for a period of up to three years, AFH decided to provide the school with transitional structures permitting the continuation of the children’s education under more acceptable conditions.

Design Innovations:

The initial challenge was to define the brief. The question of what to give someone who has everything, can be equally difficult as the question of what to give someone who has nothing? It was necessary therefore to establish precisely the expectations of the community, and hence lengthy discussions took place with the School Principal and other teachers as well as the Local Education Authority. In addition, other NGOs working in the area had to be consulted so as to avoid any duplication of work.

The design of the Classroom buildings needed primarily to provide a comfortable environment in which to learn. The intense heat and humidity of this region combine to create a climate that is not conducive to study. A basic shelter design with low side walls, woven screens, timber louvres and extended eaves was adopted.

The Principal's Office and Store Room were originally designed for ventilation and security, but essentially became a compromise between the Western notion of an open, light, well ventilated space and the Muslim concept of discretion and privacy.

Floor slabs were constructed out of brickwork with ¾" cement render due to Government regulations placed on temporary tsunami structures restricting the use of concrete. Floor levels were raised a considerable height above ground level to avoid flooding during the monsoon seasons.

Low perimeter walls to the classroom buildings protect the teaching spaces from sand and dust while permitting cross ventilation. Constructed out of locally made cement blocks that were later rendered, the project supported the local industry at a time when it was greatly needed.

The roof is supported by steel angle posts, which were used because at the time of construction timber was in short supply due to the large quantity of reconstruction work being undertaken, placing an inevitable high demand on materials. The roof itself is an aluminium/zinc alloy metal sheet with heat-resistant film; a recyclable product in itself. Being lightweight it considerably reduces the quantity and therefore the cost of the roof support structure. The roof sheets project well beyond the face of the classroom walls so that the internal spaces are protected from the sun and driving monsoon rains.

The two Classroom buildings sit at opposite ends of the site so as to maximise the central area for games and sports. A perimeter boundary wall has been constructed primarily because the Muslim culture demands privacy for the School, and it also keeps out the ubiquitous cattle, which roam around destroying furniture and property freely.

Occupant Feedback:

The occupants are very happy in their transitional School. They have emphasised on many occasions their vulnerability due to the remote location that the school occupies. AFH have learned that while aid organisations are attending to those who are immediately the most apparent and in need, there are always others located away from the main roads and urban centres that remain quiet and desperate.

The School now has enough room in which to teach. The children no longer sit on the sand and they have good protection from the heat and the rain. They have a secure place to keep their furniture and equipment on site, which previously they kept in a neighbouring house and had to be carried forwards and backwards daily. They now have a functioning and private WC and a supply of drinking water. The School Principal has an office.


Hidaya Puram Ampara District
Pottuvil, Eastern
Sri Lanka


Project Details

NAME: Al Hidaya Transitional School
PROJECT LEAD: Architecture for Humanity
LOCATION: Hidaya Puram, Pottuvil, Eastern, Sri Lanka
START DATE: November 22, 2005
CURRENT PHASE: Construction complete
COST: $10875 USD (Final)
SIZE: 9400 sq. ft
PROJECT TYPE: Education Facility - Primary School
FUNDING: Do Something; Architecture for Humanity
CONSTRUCTION: Relief International
CLIENT: 172 children and 8 teachers