45179_towardssaferschoolconstruction_0 2015 - Page 84

IN CONTEXT Building too fast Keywords: speed, poor oversight, development, EFA Community-based construction does not eliminate poor construction. In fact, if done quickly and without appropriate technical input, the results may be unsafe or unusable schools. In one South-East Asian country, 400 schools were built in rural communities under the Education for All FastTrack Initiative. The MoE, in partnership with development actors, initiated school projects across the country using a community-based construction framework. In their newly decentralised school construction process, the MoE provided practical design templates but tasked the districts with project implementation. The districts passed the responsibility to local communities who mobilised their members to provide much of the unpaid construction labour and construction materials, despite extensive poverty in the area. The MoE provided little technical support or construction administration. Parents and grandparents of students had to decipher the technical design documents, often even though they had limited or no formal education. While they did know how to build their own homes, the school construction required using unfamiliar materials. Neither the MoE nor the district conducted regular construction inspections. While the schools built by local communities were devoid of any reference to the rich cultural heritage of the country, at completion they appeared well built. However, many were later found to be structurally unsound and functionally deficient. A team of engineers and architects hired to assess the schools after their completion found many were built in locations exposed to multiple hazards. Some were built near landslide-prone hills, and some had difficult or inaccessible pathways between the schools and villages. In the Planning Stage, neither communities nor technical experts engaged in a hazard assessment and site inspection. Communities who were responsible for construction were not provided any training or oversight on why and how to build using hazard-resistant design and prevention techniques. Upon technical review of the completed roof structures, engineers found every school to be inconsistent with the technical drawings provided to construction teams. With such poor execution, the roofs would blow off in the frequent high winds or even collapse under their own weight. Proper water and sanitation facilities were also lacking. All schools were built without running water and latrines. Without water, children could not wash their hands. Without safe latrine facilities, students were likely to contract worms, diarrhoea and other communicable diseases that could result in preventable illnesses, missed school, and even malnutrition leading to stunting. The speed and scale of the project, coupled with a lack of effective technical oversight, created a poor environment for successful community-based construction. Immediately after completion, school buildings and roof structures had to be retrofitted to achieve minimal levels of structural strength, hazard resistance and functionality. Key takeaways • Although swift construction is valuable when communities lack schools, it cannot come before proper oversight and training. • Community-based school construction may not be appropriate for every context. SECTION III: CONSTRUCTION School safety club members reach out to the community to teach risk awareness and to search for hazards that might affect the community. Photo: NSET. 75