(Posted by Laurence)
EDIT: Unfortunately funding for this project did not come materialise, and so in early 2017 EMI and Cherish Uganda agreed to postpone construction indefinitely.
I currently have two upcoming projects on my plate: Phase 2 of the Amazima School in Jinja (commencing March 2017), and the Cherish High School in Rakai (slated for August 2017). I want to share some thoughts I’ve had recently as I plan for these projects: I wrote about the Amazima School project in Project planning (part 1), and so this post will deal with the Cherish High School.
Cherish Uganda fights the physical and social effects of HIV by providing homes for orphans, education, and medical treatment in communities with high rates of HIV. EMI have already partnered with Cherish to build homes and a clinic at their primary school near Kampala; now we are helping them to build a secondary school in Rakai district, in southern Uganda.
EMI’s partnership with Cherish Uganda:
“Cherish Uganda has been immensely blessed to partner with Engineering Ministries International (EMI). Every aspect of the design process, from master-planning to the critical details, has been undertaken by this group of expert architects and waste/ water, electrical and structural engineers. The beauty of this partnership is that each of these experts has raised his/her own support to live and work on behalf of projects like Cherish Health Center, at no cost to organizations like Cherish Uganda. EMI also has a construction management team, in which they employ and mentor young men from the community that they are building in.”
In the last few weeks I have visited Rakai district twice: first with a small EMI team to carry out soil tests, and then with Jane to get a feel for the area we will be moving to in summer 2017. Right now the site is an undeveloped strip of land, used by roaming herds of cattle. To me, this is an exciting blank slate: a project that I can own from the start and see through to completion [at least the first phase; we won’t be constructing all the buildings straight away]. A blank slate, and a relatively remote site (compared to our projects on the outskirts of Kampala), brings both challenges and opportunities…
- Procurement. The site is a good 3 to 4 hours drive from Kampala, where many larger suppliers are based. The town of Masaka (population approx. 100,000) is around a one hour drive away, and although I am yet to establish what vendors are present there I don’t expect to be overwhelmed by choice. In close proximity to the site is the small town of Kyotera (population approx. 10,000), where Jane and will live, which has small hardware stores. The upshot of all this is that we won’t have the luxury that other projects have, of being able to just pop into Kampala for materials; on the flip side it might be easier to purchase and repair some tools since Kyotera is a stand-alone trading centre, unlike the communities in close proximity to the capital.
- Design team support. While I am in Jinja, members of our design team can make weekly day-trips to the site; in Rakai this might be less practical, and so I will possibly have a higher level of autonomy: I will relish this, as I enjoy responsibility, but I will need to communicate well (by telephone and email) with the design team in between their visits.
- Skilled labour. From speaking to a couple
of Ugandans who know the area, I formed the impression (and this could be wrong) that it might be hard to find skilled labourers. Added to this, some of our regular workers who move from project to project with us may still be working on the Amazima School in Jinja. This will pose a challenge, for sure, but it also allows us to employ more locals in Rakai and improve their construction skills. While exploring Kyotera I was lucky enough to meet a local agricultural businessman who took me to see two vocational training institutes: educational facilities that train secondary school age children in vocational trades. The courses generally seem to include an ‘industrial placement’, and so it would be great if we could take some of these students on as site workers for a couple of months, giving us a boost in semi-skilled labour and allowing them to gain real-life experience and work under an exacting foreman, rather than just practising their skills in a slightly artificial training environment.
- Soil conditions. I haven’t seen
the detailed results from our site investigation, but the reaction of our civil engineer during the soil percolation tests was mixed: the ground appears to be clay for the most part (at least three metres deep in one area we tested), which means poor draining, making wastewater disposal tricky. This is something our civil engineers will tussle with in the months to come, and it is a common problem, but it is essential that we resolve this issue before we start construction.