First MELA SCHOOL was built in Anaikot, Kavre in Oct 2012 - April 2013.
MELA SCHOOLS FOR RURAL NEPAL (previously Bamboo School)
(by MEEM ARCHITECTURE and NAMASTE NEPAL/DCWC)
The design project was first framed up for an international competition 2009 : Open Architecture Challenge organized by American Architecture for Humanity. The proposal was based mainly on experience of two Czech architects, Martina Kostnerová and Petr Kostner, who spent half a year in Nepal (2008-09) as volunteer teachers in rural school with Czech-Nepali NGO Namaste Nepal/DCWC-CZ. The entry was awarded as one of 8 finalists (out of 400 submissions worldwide). Succes in the competition and endorsment from the organisers helped to establish Meem Architecture group and promote the project through an exhibition in January 2010.
Prior to the first school construction, a monthlong workshop was conducted in rural Nepal at the end of 2010, during which the four founding members of Meem Architecture got some knowledge of working with local bamboo, earth, stone and people and got a clue of the challenge ahead. As a result a laundry house for a rural hospital was erected.
A school campus in Teksing, Kavre was selected for the construction of the initial building, but the final agreement regarding the construction was not reached with the director. Another school establishment was later selected for extension. In October 2012 construction of the first Mela school building begun in Anaikot.
The school was designed for rural areas of Kavre district in hilly region in Central Nepal.
The project aims to replace an old type of school buildings commonly constructed in the hilly areas by local and international NGOs.
Some of the major issues tackled by the innovation include seismic vulnerability, poor daylight in classrooms, lack of acoustic treatment of roof sheets to prevent deafening noise of rain in monsoon, overall inhospitable facade and interiors, and zero landscaping. Other issues are often linked to insufficient or inappropriate funding eg. missing or inadequate furniture, impropriety and insanity of building surfaces like missing floors or unfinished sharp split face stone walls.
Existing rural schools are sometimes overcrowded with 40-45 children in a typical classroom of 16 to 20m2 *, which greatly decelerate dynamics of classes. Where schools exist, walking distances may take up 2 hours in one way. Children living that far from the school than usually attend only in dry season, as terrain gets impassable or dangerous during monsoon. Most of rural schools also cannot provide full scope of formal school education, which is now 12 years** (primary and secondary), leaving the children with their schooling not completed by School Leaving Certificate, which preclude them from further educational options.
The demographic also presents a challenge. Population in Nepal doubled from 1980 to 2013, from 14.5 million to 27.5 million 2) .In more remote areas school facilities are still missing completely, leaving local children with no formal education. Primary school net enrolment/attendance in Nepal is 84% (2003–2008) with total youth literacy rate (15-24 years) around 30% (1995–2004) 3)
Nepali schooling requires children to be uniformed and they have to purchase their own text and exercise books. Some schools, even the public ones, charge fees, although generally not very high. For many poor rural families paying even these basic expenses is often unattainable. It is essential that the school offers waivers for the poorest and include all the children in the region.
Establishing sufficient and quality rural educational facilities would help to reduce urban migration and promote self-esteem of the respective region.
* this means 0.35-0.5m2 per student; the recommendation by Department of Education in Nepal is min. 1m2 1), Czech Republic mandatory requirement is min. 1.65m2
** Formal school education in Nepal officially spans a period of 12 years, at the successful completion of which a student graduates with a certificate of Higher Secondary Education (10+2). However, since the majority of the schools in the country have not been upgraded for the lack of funds and resources to the 10+2 level, the old high school system with School Leaving Certificate (SLC) examination at the end of 10 year still persists. In reality, most rural school only offer Lower Secondary grade (up until year 8)
1) source: Giridhar Mishara - Safer and Child Friendly School Construction in Nepal
2) source : World Bank
3) source : UNESCO
EXISTING SCHOOL BUILDINGS
The single story rural schools are built of stone with concrete floors, steel and timber trusses and corrugated iron roofing. Latticework usually secures windowless openings. Fit-out of the classrooms is very basic, the minimal equipment includes:
- a blackboard which is made of thin coloured cement layer on the wall
- tables and benches, simple tubular steel frame with timber tops
There are no teaching tools or studying materials, no space for personal belongings.
CONCEPT : SUSTAINABILITY
In the hilly areas of Nepal, any transport of material is usually rather complicated. Village houses are traditionally built of local stone, mud and wood, but in recent years villagers sometimes frown upon the vernacular technologies and admire anything that is imported, even at a high price and labour. Not only the imported materials severly change character of the picturesque settlements, but the fabrication of kiln bricks, concrete blocks and cement in poorly regulated plants in the valleys badly damages environment.
The use of appropriate technology and maximum of accessible local low-carbon material is the core of the project. The structure is made of local stone, bamboo and mud, and imported materials use is minimal and restricted to key elements, such as ring beam and flooring. Further research is in progress to eliminate imported items in total.
It is vital to get a good knowledge of using natural material in construction and understand its limitations, eg. bamboo has to be treated against insects and both bamboo and mud have to be prevented from capilary action. Proper installation and treatment can significantly extend lifespan of the material and consequently of the whole construction.
CONCEPT : STRUCTURE AND LAYOUT
Nepal lies in a highly earthquake-prone zone*, with dozens of milder quakes occuring every year. Seismic forecasts predict a major earthquake to take place in years to come **. Seismic-proof structure is therefore key aspect of the innovative design, alongside with other natural disaster preventive measures, such strong winds and landslides. Lightweight roof, RC ring beam at slab level, bamboo skeleton or thick monolithic earth walls and good diagonal bracing are the main seismic-proof features.
Monsoons occurring every year between June and September represent the greatest periodic environmental charge for the building. Large roof overhangs are designed to shelter the building from direct rain exposure, while elevated plinth and drainage protect it from the water running on and in the ground around.
Mela school project does not contend with just providing a shelter. We think it as essential that children like to come to the building and spend time here and that the compound induces free gathering in outdoor sheltered areas for students and the whole village community. Some surfaces are painted to contrast with earthy colours of the house mass, to attract but not overwhelm.
Most rural schools in Nepal suffer from teacher shortages. A common practice is than that one mentor teaches in two classrooms at once, a system that does not particularly add to the quality of education. Bamboo school classroom is then designed to a possible capacity blow up, where two classes would blend in one classroom, with children sitting on the rear elevated bench and outside beyond the window parapet while still being able to see the blackboard and participate in the teaching. These extra sitting surfaces can be also used to rearrange the room for interactive activities (languages, acting, dancing, games).
The classroom is on one side open towards the scenery and closed on the other to shield classes from the noise at the playground, which is typically the central area between school buildings, where topography allows for it (some school compounds located in narrow lots on steep hillsides cannot offer a playground).
A classical passive design principle of large roof overhangs screens the interior from direct hottest summer sunshine while lets the lower winter sun rays to reach in. In this case there is no need for heating, cooling or window glazing. In inclement weather or after hours, window openings are closed with tilting shutters (storm protection and security).
* In Nepal, both the school buildings and their occupants face extreme risk from earthquakes because of a highly vulnerable building stock, high occupancy, and high seismic hazard. Nepal is located in one of the most seismically active regions of the world, due to the subduction of the Indian plate below the Tibetan plate. (source : https://www.eeri.org/seismic-safety-of-schools/seismic-school-safety-by-... , 22.10.2013)
** Nepal has been struck by a major earthquake at about 75 year intervals over the last millennium. The last big one in 1934 registered 8.4 on the Richterscale.
(source : http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2044064,00.html )