Established, successful and purposeful, three driven groups came together as a team: The Brothers of Saint Charles whose mission is to care for and educate poor and orphaned children in Eastern Africa; 13-year-old Stefan Lyon and his eponymous foundation whose vision is to build schools for children in Africa, and PLUM architects whose passion and expertise is in the design of schools. The result of this collaborative is the Mjengo Panda (“We build and grow”) Classroom.
Mjengo Panda is a lesson plan for the development of a living classroom that is site-specific to Eastern Kenya, self-sufficient and productive. Stefan’s Academy in Bungoma Kenya created a new vision of how the traditional school is defined. At this school, the children live on site and are educated in the classroom and in the fields. In addition to learning from books, children learn from farming the land and living off the mazao (crops) and getting a hands-on experience constructing their new classroom with materials harvested from the site. The classroom creates a community that accommodates and incorporates all the aspects of daily life into the curriculum. The construction cost to create the Stefan’s Wing classroom is $7000 per classroom. Sitework is estimated at $38.00 per square meter.
The site was developed holistically based on established and necessary daily routines like picking vegetables to eat and feeding the livestock which are at the center of the site and in proximity to the buildings. Crops that are harvested annually occur around the perimeter, creating both protective fencing with their height and erosion control by diversely planting each row. The land as learning environment brought us to create a ziwa (pond) that would function as a fish hatchery of
which there is local expertise. The pond will provide a food source and potential income for the school as well as training for students. The excavated earth from the pond is then put to use in the rammed-earth walls that enclose the new classrooms and in so doing uses an indigenous building material, the earth. That luxurious taste of sweet fruit trees is the prized commodity, and with their height, the leafy canopies will provide shade and buffer buildings from the agricultural production.