Three Cornell students won the creativity award for their architectural design of an eco-friendly school to be built in Ghana at a major NGO’s gala aimed to raise funds.
With the recent finalization of their design, Voices of African Mothers’ vision of building the school came closer to reality, and brought the NGO closer to achieving its larger mission of developing African nations through the empowerment and education of women and children.
In the Volta Region of Ghana, where only 7.9 percent of girls attend secondary school, Arielle Tannin ’18, Ana Moura-Cook ’19 and Claudia Nielson ’18, as members of the design team Sustainable Education Ghana under Cornell University Sustainable Design, helped design and plan the construction of the school meant for girls in a town called Sogakope.
Already, VAM Girls Academy has a waiting list of 158 students waiting to enroll and SEG’s design of a six-classroom school will contribute to housing a substantial portion of those students, the team said.
Sustainable Education Ghana applied research on the intricate weather and climate conditions and the culture of the surrounding area to the design, which includes six classrooms and their desks and chairs.
The design also optimizes the building’s internal temperature by making it face the prevailing winds on the site to allow for passive cooling.
To account for the region’s wet seasons, SEG team members even designed a woven fabric that would cover an indoor path between classrooms when students need to travel between classes in the rain.
In line with the school’s desire to provide its students with an educational curriculum, which involves agriculture, the school will include learning gardens outside classrooms where students can receive hands on learning experience.
In preparation, Tannin, Moura-Cook and Nielson not only performed field work in Ghana but also conducted design testing with children in Ithaca middle schools, in collaboration with VAM.
“It’s important to let them know that people are willing to invest in them,” said Kachina Randall, executive director of VAM. “The act of people mobilizing and coming together to build schools and platforms lets these girls, children, mothers and women all know that they have a God-given right to live a prosperous life.”
In discussing the impact of the construction of this school, Eden Brachot ’15, director of marketing and outreach at VAM, added that fewer than 8 percent of girls get to go to school “just because there are not enough physical schools.”
For this reason, the work that SEG put into designing the school is especially meaningful, the team said, as it allows students to not only gain an education but also to do so comfortably.
The school is set to open on Jan. 27, 2018 but construction of the six rooms that SEG designed will continue throughout the year as VAM raises more funds, the team said.
In the future, VAM has long term plans to expand and open more schools, a task that is possible given the scalability of the classroom’s modular design.