a mother working on a model to resolve the windows for the new classroom

21.04.13 | finalizing the master plan & starting the classroom

Now that the project is fully underway, and the master plan has been finalized with input from the community, it seemed the right time to meet with ITRHD to update them about all the developments and get their feedback. It was important that things didn’t slow down at site, so Clem headed  to Delhi solo for a meeting on Wednesday. Along with representatives from ITRHD, she was joined by Aanchal from the British Council, Shiban Ganju (who is acting as an architectural consultant on behalf of ITRHD)… and the documentary crew, who were keen to capture this side of the project. Having prepared a comprehensive document for all our sponsors, which included not just the latest drawings but all our blogs since the very start of the project, it was easy to communicate all our progress so far  – and everyone seemed impressed by how far things have come along at site. Mr Ganju provided a welcome critique, suggesting was reassess the window sizes in the classroom, the size of the kitchen, and how we phase construction – particularly emphasizing the need to start the barrel vaults as soon as possible. The head of the organization, S.K. Misra will be visiting the site on Tuesday, so it was also a chance to discuss issues that he can help to resolve when he visits – most urgently sourcing a construction supervisor who’ll be able to take over management of the site once we leave at the end of May.

Meanwhile, back in Hariharpur the rest of the team were discussing the same document with Kamlesh Ji, the husband of the school’s headmistress Beena. He’s also one of the (many!) landowners who are leasing the site for the new school building to IRTHD, and has taken on the role of helping organize and run the project at a local level. He liked the plan, but emphazised the importance of keeping the staff room on ground level and not to bring it up to first floor. He also asked us to provide a 5m high perimeter wall on the north side of the courtyard, as well as plant trees around the school to provide shade during the hot summer months.

On the building site work is gradually progressing. The mud brick walls are coming up, and the Ronchamp-inspired windows are starting to take shape. In the teacher’s toilet, which is also a shower room so will be exposed to water, we are laying a composite wall with fired bricks on the interior and mud bricks on the exterior. In all other spaces there are fired bricks as high as 4ft above the DPC before the mud bricks start. We’re starting to build a really good working team, headed by our mason Bhanu Prasad, and it’s becoming easier to schedule things now that we have contacts and suppliers in place. Yesterday we finished digging the trenches for the classroom / staffroom foundation, and managed to pour the concrete before 6pm! We celebrated with laddoos all round, and then feasted on Italian pasta and real parmesan, brought from Delhi from Clem’s friend Margherita  – who was visiting for the weekend. Thank you Marghe ; )

Although it’s still proving hard to engage the parents to work on-site, this week’s community workshop was a real success! Not only did many more parents show up, but this time we were prepared with a framework for the them to respond to and work within, which made it a lot easier for them to engage and partake. We decided on three ‘making stations’ – the first was exploring weaving options for the children’s furniture. Seema (one of teachers) put us in touch with her brother, a local carpenter called Grijesh, who made two timber frames for the parents to work with. The plan was for Sanjay, our auto driver (and also a parent of two the school’s pupils), to lead other parents… but after an hour of so of weaving, all was unraveled as it became clear he wasn’t quite sure of what he was doing! The day was saved by a local farmer called Nathai, who dropped by and showed us all how it was done. Sanjay picked up the technique pretty quick, and was happily weaving away with his nephew Prince long after the workshop had ended! The second making station was to resolve the final elevation for the classroom windows, and was focused on model-making with the mothers and teachers. This proved to be a great way to discuss the design, and the women were really engaged. The last making station was focusing on making a notice board that can explain the project, and show our progress so far. We had been given some eucalyptus wood free of charge by a local merchant and had made a frame out of this ready for weaving….but it became apparent that it was a bit too big and unwieldy – so we’re going back to the drawing board to make smaller boards out of a stronger hardwood called sheesham. This should be finished by the start of next week, and will – we hope! – be a good way to draw in the rest of the village into the project.