The School Project
EZBET aims at improving the existing resources and educational facilities that most of Ezbet Abu Qarn’s children are using. Hence, the EZBET educational development programme is concerned with upgrading the current physical situation of these services to develop a better educational environment.
The exhibition of the community centre in 2014 took place at Abu El-Souad primary school. An internal discussion between the EZBET team and the host on possible renovations of the school was sparked. The idea was to elevate the school’s educational environment through upgrading the public spaces. Hence, using the defined objectives of the EZBET Project focusing on the development of social and physical aspects, we sought to upgrade the existing facilities and infrastructure that were available within the neighbourhood prior to the construction of the community centre. On a daily basis, a total of 1624 pupils ranging from first to sixth grade along with two groups of pre-school pupils visit the school. Each class accommodates 50 to 60 children with one teacher. Most of the children are from the Ezbet Abu Qarn informal district. This intervention was considered essential due to the high impact that the upgrading initiative would create in correspondence to the required financial inputs, compared to the community centre.
THE CURRENT SITUATION OF "ABOU EL SOUAD" SCHOOL
Among others, the main physical problems in the school are listed in the following points:
THE PROJECT AIM
The aim of the intervention was to provide an educational environment for the pupils that encourages and motivates them to study and to attend school. This aim is tackled from the aspect of outdoor public spaces, as it could enhance the overall perspective of the students, teachers, and community. The vision is to showcase a module for governmental schools that offers facilities similar to those of private schools. The project ideas and programs were developed along different phases and characterized by a dynamic process of multiple research steps that affected the final product of the project. This approach of work consisted of four tracks for development based on participation which are: survey and study, data gathering and analysis, design proposals, and, finally, implementation.
Survey & Study
Social and spatial surveys were conducted. Students from Ain Shams University along with various experts were part of the surveys.
Data Gathering & Analysis
Information was gathered using tools such as surveys, interviews, group discussions and workshops. Following the gathering process, an analysis was conducted by a psychiatrist in multiple rounds to ensure the accuracy of the gathered data.
Design proposals came from the design studio at the University of Stuttgart and a student competition at Ain Shams University, that was open for all students from around Egypt
The overall implementation of projects was divided into four phases, three of which have been completed till date.
SURVEY & STUDY
Separating Wall: This was built of old wood sheets with a base of red-bricks without any foundation. It was built from pottery and earth material that provide visual connection between the two educational levels (the normal primary school and the pre-school children).
Shading area: The children defined during the interviews as well as while they were participating in the workshop that the school courtyard is very hot, as there is no shading elements or trees anywhere to sit or have a rest. They defined the eastern part of the courtyard as the optimal place for shading elements. The design was made to provide not only shading area but also a pavilion and open-space area for outdoor classes.
Greenery areas: The new designs offer some more green spaces. A bigger space is designated for fruit trees and planes. Furthermore it is meant to integrated with the sanitary area to hide it from the courtyard space and prevent bad smells from the toilets from spreading.
Running track: This area was recommended by the pedagogic and psychiatrist experts to provide the children with spaces for running and cavorting.
Football-playground area: This was a wish by almost all children: to have a football track within the school. This was not only asked by the boys but also by the girls.
Shading and playground area: This area is meant for the younger children on the other side of the separation wall.
Entertainment area: This area includes chess and hopscotch fields drawn on the floor. The children showed in their drawings especially hopscotch as a favourite games where they can learn mathematics and also have a lot of fun. Boys and girls love these games. The chess is designed in one to one format, where the children themselves should be play the role of the figures.
The project overview outlines eight milestones that describe the project from the initial ideas and discussions to future plans of implementation. These milestones are: initial contact, official contact, strategy design studio, data gathering one, data gathering two, design competition, project selection and preparation, and finally initial implementation.
INITIAL CONTACT - AUGUST 2014
The first contact to the school was during the community exhibition where four workshops were carried to introduce the community to the community centre proposal. The host of the some of this event was Abu El Souad primary school. During this period, different activities resulted in an interaction between the EZBET Project team and the community along with school pupils and teachers. Hence, we have acknowledged the gaps and deteriorated facilities of the school. Hence, initial discussion with the director of the school on possibilities of development were considered for future plans. Further description of the exhibition that took place can be found in the ‘Community Center Exhibition’ section.
OFFICIAL CONTACT - FEBRUARY 2015
In February 2015, a site visit was carried out by a team of academics and experts from the social and architectural disciplines to the primary school, where the team exchanged with the director of the school their thoughts on upgrading and renovating the outdoor spaces within the school through designs that are developed by university students. Hence, a tour of the facilities and classrooms available was led by the director along with a few interactions with the pupils and teachers. The pupils were aware of the team from the previous workshops carried out in August 2014. The involvement of the pupils was of high relevance as they represent a section of the community and the proposed intervention would have a direct impact on them.
STRATEGY DESIGN STUDIO - JULY 2015
Following the site visit in Ezbet Abu Qarn, a design studio at the University of Stuttgart was initiated on March 2015. The studio aim was to develop various proposals for renovating the primary school in the Ezbet. Consequently, various ideas were presented within the framework of eco-friendly, low-cost, low-tech and local material. The areas for intervention outlined were:
Designing the open space of the main courtyard and playground area for the pre-school groups by adding new shading elements to be used for multi-uses activities as well as open-air place for small workshops and/or exhibitions;
Reorganizing some of the unused classrooms by implementing multi function activities such as an open library, reading pavilion, music spaces and computer laboratory rooms;
The third main part of the design project is the sanitary area that has direct access to the courtyard and is attaching the design area of the reading pavilion and the new classrooms. The outputs of the studio were highlighted on two projects that were able to incorporate these understanding within the proposed design.
The proposed designs by the university students lacked the perspective of the pupils and teachers. An additional field study was conducted in July 2015 organized by the Egyptian team from Ain Shams University with the aim of gathering further information on these users was necessary. The tools used in this field study was surveys, group discussions, and unstructured interviews with the teachers and the pupils.
The pupil surveys and interviews were very structured and specific and required a drawing at the end of each survey by the interviewee on an empty sheet of paper.
The teachers on the other hand were interviewed using an unstructured format.
The school keepers were also involved through short unstructured interview due to their busy working hours.
These list of questions and surveys were designed by M.Sc. Mai Adel, a teaching assistant at Ain Shams University together with the research team and under the supervision of Dr. El-Shahat & M.A. Zimmermann, a social scientist at the University of Stuttgart. The output of the surveys together with the proposed designs from the university students as well as the outputs from the children workshops in 2015 and 2016 were analysed by a psychiatrist in Germany in order to develop a design and a list of recommendations within the urban planning realm that responds to the concepts and sketches that were suggested by the children of the school.
This was a necessary step as it reflects the pupils from the primary school that have undergone different situations to the average school pupils. For this specific reason, the survey conducted to the pupils presented a few geometric shapes from which the pupils were asked to choose which one was favourable in their opinion. This was later used by the psychiatrist to analyse how they are developed within their families and the problems they could have endured, in order to be able to design the adequate forms of furniture that could be implemented to fulfil their wishes and assist in a healthier development.
Within the track of social development, Simona Zimmermann further designed additional methods and tools for further understand the pupils and teachers aiming at extracting the the requirements of the community while developing a method of integrating them to the overall design process. Hence, a set of activities were carried out with the aim of gathering this information. These activities included a natural building material workshop, and Urban Recognition and printing workshop with the students.
A printing workshop was conducted at the primary school by EvaMarie Schulz, Elena Schmidt, and Barbara Schudok from 5th to 11th of December 2015. The workshop aimed at sharing the knowledge on production of storybooks using their lives within the neighbourhood as the background story, in addition, gathering further data for the analysis of the social development track. The objectives of the workshop were to teach the pupils different techniques and tools for printing, printing through sketches and paintings, and express the image of outdoor spaces in the form of sketches.
The workshop output was the booklets that were produced by the children. While the outcomes were learning the technique of printing and creating a relation between the pupils and books, giving them pride of accomplishment. In addition, the project gathered further information of the pupils to understand the needs based on the uses of colours and shapes that they have selected.
DESIGN COMPETITION - MARCH 2016
Using the feedback of the psychiatrist and the design strategies proposed by the students of Stuttgart University, an internal competition was announced at Ain Shams University in March 2016. As part of the site analysis for the competition site, the university students conducted site visit to the school to gain further understanding of the spaces that require intervention. The final outputs of the design proposal were submitted in July 2016 with the aim of starting with the interventions in August 2016.
During the march 2016 competition period, training workshop for the students who were participating in the competition took place. This was intended to highlight the integration of the students’ and community’s perspective into the proposed designs, such as introducing how to design schools for children and how to understand children. Through an interactive activity held in Egypt, the students also developed the ‘Ezbet Sustainable Goals for Education’ through workshops within the academic level.
During this period, a parallel seminar in University of Stuttgart titled ‘Participatory Needs Assessment’ was conducted. The PNA Seminar focused on research and analysis of the quantitative and qualitative data to develop interventions in Ezbet Abu Qarn based on the need of the community. One of the output projects delivered by the students in this seminar was the “Let’s Grow Green” project. The “Let’s Grow Green” intervention Ezbet Implemented Projects: School Project Fayoum SCEB Brick making Training - June to was designed by a group of six students from the disciplines of (landscape) architecture, political science, and urban planning. The intervention is addressing moral principles in the upbringing of children by growing plants together with them. The group developed its proposal based on gathered data from the children's activities: the sports and the printing workshops. From the conducted interviews and observation protocols, the group deduced characteristic features of growing up in Ezbet Abo Qarn and designed an intervention aiming at developing a sense of responsibility, respect, discipline and hope: growing plants.
It was also studied during the research process, how to activate the cooperation between the teachers and their school (the indoor as well as the outdoor) spaces as a potential for learning and teaching the pupils more and new ways of science by doing and by practice. The idea was also to introduce to the children and the teacher to the topic of “Let’s Grow Green”; e.g. the planting area was integrated in the design to add to the school courtyard a place for the Science teachers to teach the children how to plant a seed there and observe the growing process of the seed till it become a tree. Thus, such added elements to the design project was a product of the research studies.
PROJECT PREPARATION - JULY/AUGUST 2016
During the final presentation of the student proposals for the renovation of the school, a member of the community was part of the jury along with professors from Stuttgart University and Ain Shams University. Due to the short period between end of proposals and the beginning of construction, administrative tasks had to be prepared parallelly to the competition, such as collecting all permissions required to begin the interventions on the local level with all required protocols signed.
Finally, with the anthropography study aiming at understanding the users, laboratory research, finalizing the administration work, and the design of the intervention of schools along with the site planning plan, the project began with the implementation. Here, the involvement of various actors was highly vital for the overall process.
These actors were: researchers, experts, all actors for the municipality and the ministry with all 4 subdivisions, educational authorities, police, pupils, teachers, the school director, the community (mothers), and coffee shop owners. Some of these actors assisted within the project through provision of spaces for storage such as the shopkeepers. They also contributed with provision of refreshments during the events and offered storage space for some of the construction material for the school.
PROJECT PREPARATION - JULY/AUGUST 2016
As a preparation phase for the construction of the wall, Stabilized Compressed Earth Blocks (SCEB) were produced in July 2016 in order to have the bricks ready for the implementation of the wall of the school. The production of the bricks involved three members of the community who were trained and produced 2000 bricks. As part of Ezbet project’s vision towards empowering youth while helping the society and part of its strong belief in enhancing the environmentally friendly construction, we wanted to teach the promising youth more about this concept. This, of course, couldn’t have been possible without the help of three of the most giving Ezbet youth; Ahmed, Soliman, and Sedeek and the supervision of two of the most dedicated Ezbet team members; Islam and Mohab.
The participants went to Tunis village in Fayoum with the help and support of Professor Adel Fahmy, the United Nations trainer in earth architecture. We spent over 20 days experimenting how to make SCEB. The first two days were a series of lectures by Dr. Adel Fahmy about the various kinds of soil and what kinds are the best for the process and where to mine it. He also explained the different kind of mixtures and how the blocks are dried out with many other concepts. By the third day they started the production phase with less than 100 bricks/day. Later, despite all the problems they faced at the work location, the students were able to produce around 500 blocks/day. At first, they needed a day for mixing and another one for compressing, but then by time and guidance, the students were able to combine several processes in one day to ensure a more efficient production. One of the most remarkable days was when the students were able to challenge themselves and produce 202 blocks in one hour! Besides all the learning and the practical work, we never forget about having fun.
SITE PREPARATION - AUGUST to NOVEMBER 2016
The phases started in August 2016 till November 2016. During this period, the roles of the active parties working on the school were set. Here, the official contractor was responsible for all interior works, while Ezbet Project team had a contract focused on outdoor spaces only. Thus, the intervention of the toilets by Ezbet project could not be taken further due to the legal reasons. During this phase, the preparation of the site began with mobilization and preparation of site engineering room, including purchasing of all materials and tools required during the implementation. This period also included the excavation of the footings for the shading structure and the demolishing of the wall that separated the elder pupils from the younger one.
A collaboration with the contractor responsible for the renovation of the indoor spaces of the school was established in August 2016, thus when coordination with the of starting date was discussed as he was involved with the internal wall renovation the school, while the planned work on exterior enhancement could not start till these works were completed. Eventually, the construction site preparation began on August 2016 where there was a short period of overlapping between the contractor’s final execution and the beginning of painting the columns of the school as agreed on the protocol with the ministry.
The colour scheme of the columns was the ideas from the first prize winner of the competition. The concept of the colours is that each colour has a value. The selected colours are five colours: four psychological primary colours: red, blue, yellow, and green; adding to this orange colour as a colour for happiness. the colours were chosen depending on the psychological properties of each colour: Blue is for intellectual and is essentially soothing; it affects the mental, rather than the physical reaction. Yellow is for emotions, it activates the creativity sense of the minds. Red refers to the physical courage, strength and energy. Orange refers to enthusiasm and passion. Green is for the balance refreshment, universal love, rest, restoration, reassurance, environmental awareness, equilibrium, peace.
During this phase, while there were too many challenges in the execution and the coordination with the contractor. It was important because of the overlapping in the work with the infrastructure network under the courtyard area as well as the coloring of the columns and the selection of the colors. Many challenges emerged during this phase because of: The groundwater that is coming from the bad infrastructure sewage systems in the school. The team asked for help from the experts and consultants to find solution of making the foundation and avoid such technical problem of the site. The overlapping in the work with the infrastructure network under the courtyard area. This needed from our team to attend most of the main time while they implemented the network to know exactly the areas of intersections with our walls and designs. The follow up with the contractor to the selection of the colors and the coloring process itself. moreover, to define the main color of the whole building as the contractor had already different coloring scheme for the whole school
COURTYARD AREA - DECEMBER 2016 to FEBRUARY 2017
The second phase of the project consisted of many activities such as the establishment of the football area, running tracks, establishing the shading area, coloring the shading element, and preparing the greenery area in front of the toilets. this area was designed to teach the children how to plant. This phase showed a very fast rhythm. We had only around two and half a month (very limited time) to finalize the whole work before the school should start in the first week of February. The work included hard-scape and soft-scape elements that also needed more technical and professional work than the time left.
Thus, we had more pressure in terms of time and the amount of elements we should implement. The shading element and coloring it as well as building the seating corners under the shading element was a challenge, because the insulation layers of oil and the final colors at the end took too much time to be finished. The same for the football playground area. It needed different layers of leveling the ground and more professional workers to do the final flooring using very technical machines to do the helicopter flooring surfaces. The decision to make the helicopter flooring surface for the football area was to ensure the durability and the resistance against the sun radiation and against the groundwater pressure from the bottom.
Part of the construction site in this phase included the building and finalising of the separating wall. The wall was reconstructed using earth material and pottery. The earth blocks were produced during the training given to three of the Ezbet youth in El-Fayoum. we have asked for expertise and consultation from Prof. Adel Fahmy, Eng. Ahmed Abdelwahab and Eng. Zeiad Amer to see the different properties and condition of the wall using the pottery in big surface of the wall. among other technical issues, we were concerning of the pressure and the weight of the wall and how we can manage these issues technically. solutions and ideas were developed with our expertise.
PHASE 3 & 4
PRE-SCHOOL AREA - MUSIC KIOSK - GREENERY
Similar to the second phase, the third phase was considered one of the busy periods for the implementation of the interventions as it included shading structure for the younger preschool pupils, playground area, shading structure, continuation of greenery and implementing a place for the children to play chess that is a one-to-one scale chess playground, and finally a hopscotch area. The shading element was constructed by wood and had a multi-function where it provided shade but also a play area for children as it had a slide.
This phase also included the continuation of work on the courtyard area for older pupils. The implementation of the phase began with mobilization where required tools were brought to site and the room for the site engineers was prepared, followed by the execution of these projects.
This phase also included the planting
of the greenery area in front of the
toilets. Two types of trees were
selected to be planted in this area:
lemon and orange. The selection of
these trees was based on: lemon and orange having thorns, so it reduces the likeliness that it will endure vandalism by the pupils of the school. But also, the selection of these two types of trees was made because these trees are also producing fruit and flowers together throughout the year. They were selected also because of their other properties, so the teachers can use its product for the nutrition and science lessons.
Some area has been identified by the teachers as having the potential for being a music kiosk and workstation for the pupils with the integration of greenery. The idea of the music kiosk is ideal as it located within the boundary of the school, however, not within close proximity to the courtyards and pupils’ facilities. Along with the music kiosk, outdoor hand washing basins for the children and staff are planned. Due to funds, these aspects were not tackled. In addition, if it to be taken forward, further building permission and official request must be taken first.
Community members:600 Academic, expert, etc:300 - School staff (Director, teachers, Care/cleaning staff) - School pupils - Academic Staff in ASU and SI - Community of Ezbet - Students of ASU and IUSD - Ministry of Education (all responsible dep.) - Educational building authority - Representative Contractor from ministry
Upgrade shading element, courtyard, greenery, playground areas
- Healthier and productive environment for the children - Participatory process including large number of participants.
- Dynamic process required for construction - Knowledge of implementing low cost material with its technicalities
Acknowledgement of community and municipality Tools: Survey, group discussion, workshops, interviews, observation, mapping.
Eliminating dropping out of education, and Binding the pupils with their school Enhancing the educational built environment quality.
Planning of project: Jan -2015 Jul 2016 Implementation: Planned: Aug-Dec 2016 Actual: (Phase 2 & 1) Aug -2016 Feb 2017 (Phase 3) Aug 2017
COST OF PROJECT
- Enhancing the built environment: - Adding shading elements.
- Integrating more greenery within the courtyard.
- Increasing the visual interaction between the younger and older children.
- Adding colours to the school building, namely colouring the columns.
- Adding new elements in the design such as implementing chess and hopscotch.
- Adding soft- & hardscape elements to the open-space:
- Establishing a football playground attached by running tracks
- Constructing a shading area including adding more greenery to the area.
- Flooring the in-between areas between the playground elements.
- Implementing an integrated playground area that provide a shaded area for the younger children