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March 8 2019

The Construction Team

In late January, construction started on the girls dormitory compound at Milembe Secondary School.  We spent most of February on site in Tanzania, helping the crew interpret the designs and continuing to develop plans for the site.  With Africa Schoolhouse founders Aimee and Mark Bessire, we also met with officials from Misungwi District and with Dr. Livin Mosha, Chair of the Architecture Department at ARDI University in Dar es Salaam to review the design and the master plan.

5 February 2019:  Meeting with Misungwi District Commissioner and Department Heads 

5 February 2019: Excavation for footings, with Teacher House behind and Science Labs in the distance.

Progress was amazing during those weeks.  Engineer Benjamin John had staked out the dormitory site next to the Teacher House, which had been built with funds from the US Ambassador in 2016 and is destined to become the Matron House for the complex.  By the time we arrived, all of the foundation pits had been dug for the roughly 26 x 8 x 18 M building.  The crew worked all weekend because clay deposits made the ground so hard;  the upside was the walls of the holes stayed nearly perpendicular, rather than sloping, and required no bracing. 

8 February 2019:  Head carpenter Mapanbano Fukuji checking the level of the walls with a plumb bob as they are constructed.

Masonry foremen Amos Sungururu and Elisha Jerumiahhad marked the foundations with colored string tied to sapling stakes in the ground, carefully indenting the entrance wall and projecting the center rooms in the back.  A sand, rock and concrete mix is placed at the base of the foundations, with four courses of block on top.  The District has a plant that makes cement block—matofali cementiin Swahili—and part of their contribution to the project will be supplying the block.  Block-making began just after the foundations were started, it has been a great advantage to have good quality block being manufactured quickly and relatively close to the site.  For the Science Labs, the block was made on site, but the quality was not as good as it will be using the machines in the shop.

There were about thirty people on site, many of whom have been working on Africa Schoolhouse projects for more than ten years, and it was rewarding to renew friendships developed since 2013.  Elisha’s two sons, who were in school when the first Africa Schoolhouse project started, are now on the team, too.  Local people and casual laborers learn skills and are often hired elsewhere afterwards. And there are always women on the crew, doing everything from carrying water from the well on the other side of the school campus to laying block.   they all worked overtime–long days and even weekend–far from their families–to make as much progress as possible before we all left.    

13 February:  formwork and reinforcing in place for the “ground beams,” with underlayment for the floor slab.

14 February 2019:  Working lunch with Benjamin, Jefta Kishosha, Aimee Bessire, Dr. Livin Mosha and Mark Bessire.

19 February:  Placing the corner blocks with great care.

21 February:  Four courses already in place, Amos checking level of walls.

20 February 2019:  Mapanbano, Amos, Scott and Benjamin mocking up the screen at the entrance.

26 February 2019:  Mapanbano, Benjamin and Elisha in one of the dorm rooms.

7 March 2019:  Walls nearly finished, with formwork for the ring beam (re-used from the ground beam) in place.