45179_towardssaferschoolconstruction_0 2015 - Page 12

SECTION I: INTRODUCTION A community-based approach A community-based approach offers one way of achieving safer school buildings in hazard-prone places. Communities have the biggest stake in school safety – when disasters strike unsafe schools, it is the community’s students that are harmed and the community’s education assets that are lost. It will be their children experiencing trauma and losing their school. Communities intimately understand how these damages can delay community aspirations for years to come. Community-based school construction covers a spectrum of possible community involvement, from making informed programmatic planning and design decisions to directly taking part in its construction. How communities will benefit This method seeks to build safe and appropriate school buildings, as well as community capital. It acknowledges that communities best know their context, capabilities and customs – what locations will be most accessible, which construction materials are familiar to local builders, and what designs are culturally acceptable. Community-based construction can foster a sense of ownership as communities take part in planning and design stages. They can articulate their needs and ensure the appropriateness of the materials and the construction techniques used. By engaging in the construction process, they gain experience with the materials and construction techniques. This familiarity later helps the school community successfully operate and maintain the school, ensuring it remains a safe school throughout its lifespan. The impacts of a single safe school construction project radiate outward from the school site. When communities are actively involved in constructing safe school buildings, they also build their capacity for safe construction practices. They see how to attach roof trusses so they are secure during cyclones; practise how to bend reinforcing steel to strengthen concrete columns so they are protective in earthquakes; and learn how to lay drainage systems and strong foundations to reduce the risks posed by heavy rain. Communities can then apply these techniques to their own houses and demand that future community facilities are also built safely. The approach ensures school construction benefits the local community and livelihoods. Local labourers can find employment and opportunities to improve their skills. Community approaches ensure funds reach communities when the project relies on labour-intensive construction by community members rather than feeding profits to businesses outside the community. It’s also beneficial when projects rely on local materials and local practice rather than pre-fabricated materials that communities will be unable to maintain or replicate. The approach brings transparency and accountability. With training, communities can be better positioned to monitor school construction than distant donors or over-stretched Kindergarten students in Ghana line up for school. The school was designed and built to address hazards, such as wind, earthquake and extreme temperatures. The school also incorporates local building materials and sustainability principles. Photo: Jack Brockway. 3