In the Spring of 2011, graduate students in Professor Garrison’s vertical design studio were tasked with the design of a school in rural Tanzania. Seeking sustainable design advice, Dr. Gunn, the Executive Director of Africa’s Promise Village School, reached out to Garisson and his students to improve the conditions of education in rural Tanzania, where low wages and lack of funding and resources at school lead to low literacy rates and little chance for employment. Government-run schools employ teachers with no formal education, provide little in terms of textbooks and other school supplies, and sit up to 90 students per classroom. This condition is reflected in the district of Simanjiro, where Africa’s Promise Village School will serve the parish of Father Peter Pascal Pinto, spanning over 19 Masaai villages. Father Pinto and Dr. Gunn advised the design process, working with the University of Texas team to create guidelines to guide proposals from each student.
Initial parameters included the division of the site, informed by assumptions about the school’s curriculum. The Maasai tribe of Esilale ceded 40 acres for construction; 10 acres were designated for the school, and the remaining 30 for a triple crop of maize, sunflowers, and chickpeas to complement the Maasai’s existing farms and help combat prevalent malnutrition. This practical sensibility extended into the school’s curriculum; approximately 400 children will be educated in various methods of crop production, irrigation, reading and writing, price negotiation, marketing of local crafts, and general hygiene and food preparation, looking to increase crop yield while improving education for Maasai youth.