The Gifted School
The Gifted School – Description of Atelier Masōmī.
Koungou Zarma is a small village in the district of Kollo, 30 km from Niamey. A major problem for its inhabitants is the lack of a descent school for their children to attend. The current elementary school consists of two crumbling adobe structures and three wood and thatch ones that fall apart every rainy season. Some parents prefer keeping their children at home rather than have them learn sitting on the mud floor under a roof that might crumble at any moment.
As part of their Giving Back initiative, Airtel-Niger, a telecom company of the Airtel group, has been going around the country identifying areas in need of schools. Koungou Zarma was such an area they decided to gift a new school to, complete with desks and benches.
The best part is that the site is a gift as well. Over the years, the current school has been on one of the villagers farming land, which he reclaimed every planting season, as it coincides with the long Summer break. The farmer has now turned the land completely over for the new school.
The 6-classroom project is inspired by this succession of gifts to make its own contributions that benefit the village as a whole. Rather than walling if off, as is customary, the school is designed in a way that allows the farmer to still reclaim the grounds for planting during the rainy season. The classroom blocks are separated from one another, allowing planting in between, and the new type of compound wall opens the site up to the farmland all around.
Because one of the programs of the school is to include a series of pea-patch gardens for the students, rainwater is channeled from the roof into a reservoir, which can be used during the arid school year to water plants. The reservoir sits underneath a elliptical congregation space at the center of the school that will be used for school assemblies and village gatherings during the off hours.
For a good half of the school-year, the temperatures reach 45 degrees Celsius. In keeping with this reality, the project will be built with Compressed Earth Blocks (CEBs), which will help cool down the interior and ensure thermal comfort for the students.