Between 1989 and 2003, Liberia was ravaged by two civil wars. The fighting killed 300,000 – young and old alike. Currently, Liberia is 162nd in the Human Development Index and is still recovering from the devastation. The Bamboo School Project in Fendell on the outskirts of Monorovia, Liberia, led by Brazilian architect André Dal’Bó da Costa and film maker Vinícius Zanotti, seeks to establish one of the most important social and architectural programs for future development: education.
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Education is the foundation of a prosperous future. Given the opportunity, the children of Fendell can grow up with the tools and confidence to aspire to and achieve their goals and become the roots of a future Liberia.
The Bamboo School Project was established to rebuild a proper school for these children and provide them with an environment where education is accessible. This volunteer effort hopes to provide the fundamental amenities: water, light, and a sanitation system in a school for 300 children. The construction goal of the project is to design a prefabricated building that can be assembled in Liberia using materials that the people of Liberia are familiar with – namely, bamboo. The bamboo structure would be built in Brazil and enclosed in Liberia using an adobe masonry – a technique used there. The enclosure is a porous surface that will protect the school from the rain but allow natural light to penetrate the classrooms.
The school that now stands in Fendell was built by Sabato Neufville in September of 2009. It is a free school, supported by Neufville, to supplement the lack of free or public education in Liberia that leaves many children without an education. The building is a bamboo and tin-roof construction that houses 160 students. Students ages 3 to 15 come to this school and learn English, Reading, Writing, Science and Mathematics. These subjects all begin with fundamental concepts: children need to speak well, write well, understand the land, the plants and soil; they need to be able to count, to measure and distinguish between forms.
The teachers at this school are devoted to their students, working for 10 USD a day with limited supplies. As one teacher puts it in the documentary, “If I find another job where will our children be tomorrow? How do they grow up in a good manner to build a nation?” They are providing children with the ability to make informed decisions about their civilization: “They will not support war. They will not take their education and pick up arms,” says Roosevelt Zosuvo, a certified English teacher.