CERES Global has been travelling to India since 2006 facilitating cultural exchanges with local communities and like-minded organisations in South India, Mumbai, Central India, Delhi and the Himalayas. Over this time the relationships between CERES Global and the local organisations have grown and strengthened to create enduring and trusted connections.
In 2012 CERES Global and Satpura Vikas Mandal, a local NGO, began discussing the possibility of building new teachers’ quarters for the Jamnya School, one of their poorest boarding schools of around 400 students in a remote tribal village near Pal in northern Maharashtra.
The Jamnya School believed that in order to retain passionate and highly educated teachers it will be critical to provide good quality accommodation that matches the aspirations of this progressive school.
Jamnya School and CERES Global worked with Environ environmental engineers and Modus Architects to design a prototype housing project and secured a grant to research appropriate construction methods and build resilient, sustainable and culturally appropriate teacher’s accommodation.
Project consultation, planning & data collection
In 2013 a team from CERES traveled to Jamnya to meet with representatives of the school and to commence the consultation and planning phase of the project. The initial project brief expanded to include developing a brief and master plan for improvements and expansion of the whole Jamnya School, boarding facilities, staff accommodation, support facilities and the teacher’s quarters. Strategies were also discussed to make improvements to the existing school infrastructure and education programs, particularly relating to sanitation and waste.
A weather station was installed to gather data about the local climate. It has also been incorporated into the school curriculum as the students learn to collect and record data and make mathematical calculations.
The overall project vision has now expanded to build a new sustainable school built with locally sourced low impact materials and with the input and participation of local trades and suppliers. The aim is to develop local skills and introduce appropriate technologies that make a positive impact on the environment while remaining affordable and transferrable in the remote tribal context.
In partnership with CERES, the Jamnya School aims to be a school which embraces leadership in sustainability education and practices.
The new master plan and climatic data provides a framework to move forward with developing strategies and implementing improvements to the school infrastructure, building new buildings and starting construction of the teachers’ quarters.
The work continues
In January 2014 the CERES Global team returned to Jamnya with a group of enthusiastic and skilled Swinburne Trade School carpentry and plumbing apprentices. En route to Jamnya, the group spent time in South India investigating innovative sustainable building technologies at Auroville and Pitchandikulam, CERES Global’s other partner organisation in India.
The team achieved amazing outcomes at the school this year. The two main areas of activity that took place were: to make improvements to some of the existing school infrastructure, particularly the toilets and water supply for sanitation; and to continue consultation and commence construction of the teachers’ quarters.
Toilets & water for sanitation
By the time we arrived this year some improvements had started to be made on the existing dilapidated boys and girls toilets. We were able to join in to complete some of the work on repairing the toilets while also installing new water tanks for hand washing and an in-ground sand filter to manage the outflow from the septic system. A number of existing water taps were also repaired and some major leaks were stopped, saving thousands of litres of water per year.
Decorating the boys and girls toilets
Some of our artists invited the students to decorate the toilet buildings and tank stands. The involvement from the students was fantastic, their enthusiasm and energy was amazing. They painted murals on the walls and the water tank stands were adorned with a decorative mosaic. Once the work was done, team members gave demonstrations to the children on how to use the new water facilities for sanitation and toilet cleaning.
Consultation and design with teachers
The existing teachers’ quarters are below standard by anyone’s measure. The dedication of the existing teachers is remarkable considering the conditions of their accommodation. The final layout of the proposed housing was discussed with the teachers and some minor modifications made to accommodate feedback. We were able to finalise the building layout and location and details of internal details for cooking, bathroom, sleeping, living and outdoor areas.
Materials & techniques research
Materials research and investigations concentrated on varieties of compressed brick and bamboo construction. Case studies were visited and studied. Existing locally manufactured fired bricks were analysed for their environmental impact. Bamboo plantations were assessed for suitability for construction. Local soil samples were taken and sent to the Earth Institute in Auroville for analysis to determine appropriate mixtures for compressed earth brick construction. This process has resulted in a clear strategy to use these locally available materials of earth and bamboo combined with local skillsets to create beautiful, appropriate and resilient buildings with a low environmental impact.
The building site was assessed and the building set-out finalised. A blessing ceremony launched construction. The CERES Global team, local trades, teachers and students all pitched in to dig the trenches for the new footings. The rock and cement footings were built using local low-impact practices. The interest and contribution from students, teachers and local villagers was amazing. All of the work was completed using manual labour and hand tools. The limited availability of electricity and machinery allowed teamwork to flourish. Work will continue through the year under the coordination of a local contractor to complete the footings and building base.
In 2015 the team will reassemble and return to continue supporting the project. Work has commenced on detailed design of the building. The upcoming year will look at detailed project work developing ideas and timelines for a number of projects, including: a community solar hot water system, centralised school water treatment, rainwater harvesting & storage, general revegetation, kitchen garden, ventilation strategies for solid fuel based cooking, alternative biomass for cooking, brick making, bamboo harvesting & treatment.
As teacher’s living conditions improve and the school evolves, CERES Global will work with the teachers and local community to develop culturally appropriate infrastructure and curriculum which addresses and educates about universally relevant topics also found in the CERES Sustainable Schools programs.
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