Elementary School

Anwa Junior Academy / Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI)

  • Architect:Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI)
  • Location: Lindi Village , Kibera. Nairobi, Kenya
  • Date:2016-2017
  • Others:Carpentry Training - Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI) in partnership with Kenya Research Forestry Institute (KEFRI)

Anwa Junior Academy

Anwa Junior Academy – Description from Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI).


Anwa is a primary school which serves just under 400 extremely poor children from Kibera. Because there are very few public elementary schools within Kibera, schools like Anwa are critical to the community. Anwa was started by a group of mothers in Kibera with just a handful of students and a rented room. Over time it has grown in attendance and physical presence and, until construction began, occupied a 2-story ramshackle building made of mismatched wood, rusted sheet metal, cardboard, and sandbags. Because Anwa developed a reputation for good test scores and well-mannered students, enrollment outpaced the physical expansion of the school.

Courtesy of Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI).

For the last year, KDI has been working on the first part of the Anwa School Project, which has included the construction of the main building. The school community participated in programing and building the structure which was constructed within principles of green design and sustainability. The main building is a model for sustainable, context based design including sustainability sourced and certified timber framing, as well as wattle and daub mud-walls on the ground floor and mabati (steel) sheeting on the first floor referencing traditional Kibera techniques, while reflecting the local identity of the settlement. The project also features the use of doors and windows, built by KDI carpentry trainees from sustainably sourced bamboo and timber. All construction utilized local materials, techniques, and labor, to ensure that building methods and techniques were transferable to the local community. The school has already attracted a lot of attention, both in and out of Kibera, and we hope that it will become an important example of sustainable and context-appropriate design in Nairobi. The next phase in the project is to create suitable access to the upper storey and a sustainable landscape for the school grounds.

“At KDI, we co-design and build what we call Productive Public Spaces (PPS) – formerly underutilized, unsafe or polluted sites that are transformed into active, attractive community hubs.”

Courtesy of Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI).


Begun in 2006, Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI) is a non-profit design and community development organization specializing in the practices of architecture, landscape architecture, engineering, urban planning, and community organizing. KDI partners with residents living in extreme poverty in Africa, Latin America, and the United States, to develop and implement high-impact design interventions that improve physical, economic, and social quality of life. KDI believes that participatory planning and design are key to sustainable development. Working collaboratively with communities from conception through implementation, KDI builds on their ideas, enhances them with technical knowledge and design innovation, and connects them to extant resources. In doing so, KDI empowers communities to advocate for themselves and address the major physical, economic, and social challenges they face.

Mud Wall Prototyping. Courtesy of Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI).

Our projects range from simple, temporary structures to complex plans for a region, but often our work centers on public space. We build what we call, Productive Public Spaces (PPS); these are former neighborhood-waste-spaces, like dump sites or vacant lots that we transform into vibrant community hubs. Each Productive Public Space simultaneously:

  • Improves the physical environment (through multi-functional amenities such as parks, learning centers, and marketplaces).
  • Stimulates economic growth (through new enterprises, entrepreneurship training, and micro-loans).
  • Creates new social and cultural development opportunities (through skills training and arts programming.

KDI started working with residents in Kibera, one of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2006. Since then, KDI has partnered with nine unique communities in Kibera to develop and construct nine multi-faceted “Productive Public Spaces” that make up the Kibera Public Space Project (KPSP). KDI is currently working on its tenth Productive Public Space project (KPSP10) while supporting the ongoing development of the first nine Productive Public Spaces and associated community partners. KDI is also engaged in several infrastructure and planning initiatives with local and municipal government including the Kibera Chieftaincy, County Council Planning Department, and Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company.

Context. Courtesy of Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI).


In 2003, the Kenyan government instituted a free primary education policy. However, due to a continued lack of educational infrastructure, access to quality education continues to be a challenge for the majority of the urban poor. Over our years working in Kibera, residents continued to identify access to quality primary education as a primary need.

KDI defines a Productive Public Learning Spaces (PPLS) as an educational facility that has a community perspective; it functions to benefit the people who use the school and the broader community within which it is situated. A PPLS is an economically and socially productive space where students and the community can gather and learn. In principle, a Productive Public Learning Space meets the following objectives:

  1. Transforms an environmental liability into a quality space for learning
  2. Is authored and operated by its end-users collaborating with outside groups
  3. Integrates income-generating and socially empowering uses
  4. Adds value to a space without alienating the original community
  5. Meets expressed community priorities and links to larger improvement efforts
  6. Uses strong design concepts to create beautiful places

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