(Posted by Laurence)
This is perhaps not a typical eMi project (if there is such a thing), but I went on a site visit to the Amazima School last week and so it seems as good a project as any to start with. As far as I am aware this is the largest (and hence atypical) project eMi has helped manage: a 70 acre greenfield site that is being turned into an 800 pupil secondary school. I happened to visit this site in September (during my two week trip to Uganda), and at the time the contractor was just breaking ground, i.e. plant machinery was removing vegetation and building foundations were being marked out. Six months on the site is a hive of activity, and orange-brown brick dormitories and classrooms are sprouting up on a fertile green hillside.
I won’t do justice to Amazima Ministries, but I will try and give a brief introduction. In 2007, 18-year-old Katie Davies from the USA came to Uganda on a short-term trip to volunteer at an orphanage. Sure, plenty of 18-year-olds do something similar. But what was different about Katie was that she ended up moving her life to Uganda and starting a sponsorship program to fund the schooling of orphans and vulnerable children. Not only that; to date she fosters 14 Ugandan children. Aided by support for her autobiographical book, Kisses from Katie, she founded Amazima Ministries which has programmes dealing with education, nutrition, agriculture, womens’ livelihoods and medical outreach.
I don’t know all the details of Amazima’s work, and I haven’t read Katie’s book, but regardless I would challenge anyone to say that isn’t an amazing and inspirational story.
eMi’s role in the project
Back to the bricks-and-mortar… Amazima were wanting to build a secondary school near Jinja, and eMi were able to partner with them to produce detailed designs and construction drawings. For the construction phase, due to the size of the project, Amazima have hired a Ugandan construction firm called Pearl Engineering Company and eMi are acting in an advisory role. Yusuf, one of our Ugandan staff, is on site permanently as a Clerk of Works, and Jeff (Project Engineer) makes weekly visits to oversee the technical design details.
An alternative CM model
It’s great that eMi can be involved in a project of this size, and the work that our design team has done has been invaluable for Amazima and definitely needs follow up by the CM team to ensure that the construction drawings are correctly interpreted and turned into an acceptable build quality, but there are potential drawbacks to this method of CM involvement. I had a good chat with Yusuf on site, and we talked about the fact that when a general contractor is involved it is much harder to coach tradesmen and instil higher standards. At the end of the day Pearl Engineering can do what they want with their workers, and they don’t answer to eMi. The alternative (and commonly used) CM model is what eMi calls ‘self performed’, which means eMi directly manages the project and employs labourers to work on site. The advantage of this is that the eMi CM team can set standards for quality, safety and management, and influence the future site foremen and project managers of Uganda. This is where I hope to find myself in due course.