Posted on March 29th, 2017
St. Stephen’s Primary School lies on the outskirts of Kamuli Town, and was chosen as HYT’s 10th ‘One Village at a Time’ project. Until recently, younger pupils studied under mango trees, with weather and the need to fetch water constantly disrupting their education. Teachers also struggled to reach school on time due to the difficulties of their daily commute. Thanks to the generous donations of three Haileybury houses, and the hard work of HYT trainers and trainees, this is starting to change.
HYT began by constructing a new classroom block on the site of a previous attempt that was abandoned when the school’s funds ran dry. The new build contains two classrooms and a central divider which enables its conversion into an exam hall. While those in the thrall of GCSE’s and A Levels may not see it as such, the examination space is a blessing for the pupils of St. Stephen’s, who otherwise must travel 5 kilometres to the nearest assessment centre. Such journeys incur unnecessary stress and travel costs for vulnerable families and children. Once construction is complete, St. Stephen’s Butaaya will provide a state of the art examination hall for local pupils.
There is not long to go before the classroom block is ready for use. The final or “finishing” stage is one of the most important, and it is being funded by Haileybury’s Batten House. This will include the instalment of window shutters and burglar bars for shelter and security, and also the application of plaster and paint. At HYT we believe it is important to instil pride in schools and their communities. An attractive, professional structure is likely to be well-maintained and looked after for years to come. Outfitting and decorating also provide vital construction skills for trainees. Thanks to Batten, they will learn all of the techniques necessary to become professional builders.
Another key technique for HYT masons is building with specially designed curved blocks. Kipling House has provided the opportunity for such training by funding the school’s rainwater harvesting tank. Like HYT’s regular Interlocking Stabilised Soil Blocks (ISSBs), curved blocks are cured in the sun and do not require the firewood that is used for making traditional burned bricks. With their interlock minimising cement usage, they provide a durable, environmentally-friendly alternative to plastic water tanks. Kipling’s generous contribution will equip St. Stephen’s with this resource-saving device, and the trainees with the capacity to build more of these structures.
Even with a brand new water tank and classroom, a school is nothing without its staff. Long distances and difficult road conditions make it hard for teachers, most of whom cycle, to reach school on time. This is where Haileybury’s Lower School come in, with their sponsoring of a staff accommodation block. Building on the innovative designs shared with HYT by the Richard Feilden Foundation, this comfortable home is economical and tailored to the local environment. It’s veranda takes advantage of Uganda’s tropical climate to provide ample outdoor living and cooking space. As the most complex structure at St. Stephen’s, it represents one of the final challenges for trainees before their graduation as ISSB masons.
It is inspiring to see the efforts of Haileybury fundraisers combine with those of Uganda’s youth to create vital structures for schools and communities, and the impact doesn’t end there! HYT-trained masons, like Haileybury’s pupils, gain valuable knowledge to help and empower them throughout the rest of their lives. They will use their new skills to build and improve the lives of people all over Uganda, as part of a charity that prides itself on giving a hand up, not a hand out.
Finally, you may know that HYT is a finalist in the prestigious 2017 Ashden Awards. You can read more about what this means for the Trust and our work in Uganda here!
Posted on February 6th, 2017
Kadungulu Secondary School’s new dormitory has been the talk of the town now that HYT and Billington Vocational Training Centre (BVTC) have added a shiny red roof! Eric, Sam and the team have been hard at work training and building, and the project is nearing completion. Let’s find out just what’s been wowing the local community, and how the two organisations are working to improve lives for the people here in Uganda’s Teso region.
With the roofing complete, trainees will soon learn essential finishing techniques such as plastering and painting. In the meantime, however, the durability of Interlocking Stabilised Soil Blocks (ISSB) allows the masons to leave them exposed and begin work on another structure: the water tank. This vital building affords trainees the opportunity to work with the curved block, a key form of compressed earth technology.
Rectangular blocks are great for building classrooms, houses, washrooms and many other structures, but water storage pressure requires round tanks. Fortunately, Makiga Engineering supplies a press for making curved blocks that are perfectly suited to this purpose. The technology has been causing quite a stir here in Kadungulu, where circular architecture is extremely popular. There have already been requests for round ISSB houses!
Though the manually operated press and wide availability of necessary soils make ISSB suitable for use all over Uganda, the technology offers particular benefits within Teso. Not only are people already familiar with round earth structures, but the region also lacks the dense forests of the West. This means fewer trees for firing brick kilns, raising prices and making ISSB a lucrative alternative. Hit hard by the drought currently sweeping Uganda, it is imperative for Teso to save as many trees, and as much rainwater, as possible.
Having a rainwater tank on site not only improves health and sanitation, but provides educational benefits. Without one, students miss lessons in order to collect water from the nearest borehole. With everyone using such facilities during the dry season, queues can become extremely long and delay students further. Our tanks help to tackle both the symptoms and roots of this problem. The water stored helps to shorten queues and keep kids in class, while the bricks help to prevent crippling deforestation.
As well as contributing to global warming through increased carbon emissions, deforestation has been found to affect local rainfall negatively. According to David Ellison from the Institute for World Economics, “evapo-transpiration is a very large component of rain generation”. It’s therefore critical for Teso to conserve its remaining trees, allowing them to store and release life-giving water. HYT’s sun-dried ISSBs enable communities to build structures for harvesting rainwater, without burning the very forests that provide it.
Empowering communities to develop sustainably involves more than just constructing buildings. HYT’s partnership with BVTC covers the training of 10 youths, who can continue to build beyond the Kadungulu project. To aid Sam and Eric in the teaching process, newly appointed HYT assistant trainer Alamanzani has arrived on site. Having first joined the organisation as a trainee at St. Mulumba, Kiseege, he has now progressed to become a fully-fledged teacher of ISSB technology!
The enthusiastic response to HYT’s work in Teso bodes well for the future of ISSB. Environmental conditions, eagerness to experiment and the presence of a highly trained team will all contribute to the proliferation of this innovative technology. We’re extremely grateful to BVTC for their central involvement in the project. With their help, we will bring the practice of sustainable construction to the areas that need it most, improving lives and preserving trees all over Uganda.
 David Ellison, cited in Kate Evans’ ‘Make it Rain: Planting forests could help drought-stricken regions’, Forest News, (July, 2012).