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Director Adrian Friend revealed the process behind this remarkable project in the September 2009 issue of Blueprint. Initiated by the Johannesburg NGO, Education Africa, the Jouberton Nursery school was built by 35 students from the University of Nottingham who assisted in fund raising and participated in a year long design process. The design, selected from 180 others, was based on student project by Will Gowland, winner of a design competition in January 2009. A simple timber framed construction technique was developed and married with pre-fabricated components to guarantee the six-week construction programme and to make best use of unskilled labourers both students and local helpers.

We flew out to South Africa on the 21st March 2009 to be greeted at the airport by the Junior Early Learning Centre teachers who would ultimately be teaching in the new school once we completed it.  On arrival in the mining town of Klerksdorp (The City of Matlosana, 200km outside Johannesburg) we were further greeted by the Mayor of Matlosana  and project stakeholders Anglo Gold Ashanti, the local mine where most of the township community worked and the vital third link in our project giving us details of local experts such as Vision Build.

First week in Jouberton was spent clearing and levelling the site, setting out, digging trenches and forming the reinforcement cages for the foundations. In the middle of week two we dispatched a team to a local timber yard to cut the trusses while others continued to prepare the groundworks and refine the drawings. At the Timber yard we learnt that some of the timber sizes we specified such as the 200 x 50 for the trusses are not cut in South Africa. Instead we used a 228 x 50, which meant it was impossible to transport a half a tonne assembled trusses to site.

We opted to have all the pieces for every truss cut at the yard and transport them to site for assemblage.  The largest component of the building was the superstructure formed by the trusses, which accounted for fifty percent of the budget. Most of the team spent weeks two and three manually sanding the rough sawn timber, drilling and assembling the 27 truss on the ground and have them ready to be erected by a crane in three days. 

At the beginning of week four we started fabrication of the timber cassettes forming the timber wall facing the courtyard and the purlins in between the trusses. Each timber cassette formed a room enclosure that was then clad in black Onduline cladding, a French cellulose-bitumen roofing product, which had recently started manufacture in South Africa. The clerestorey ‘eye-lids’ in each room that allow sunlight to flood in, were originally going to be blocked in with timber sheeting until we discovered an ‘affordable’ way of cutting clear acrylic templates from Ellaton Mining Supplies.

Throughout the construction process the students worked tirelessly to get as much as possible donated and sponsored. ‘Trees for Africa’ donated 50 trees, South Africa Breweries donated PowerAid (essential in the heat). Maybe as much as 20% of the project materials were donated or discounted in total. The total construction budget for this 600 square metre nursery school was £50,000.00 (approx). The nursery opened on the 1st July 2009 and is currently attended by 80 children from the Jouberton township.


Education Africa





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