Comments: 37 • Responses: 13  • Date: 

benmarvin8 karma

Can you tell me how the design or architecture of a school is more important than its staff or curriculum?

blayton046 karma

The design is not more important than the staff or curriculum. The teachers are provided by the Ministry of Education in Burkina Faso. They are trained and have a curriculum appropriate for the primary aged children. These are critical to the success of the school. Most of our team members at For Burkina have degrees in architecture or are currently attending a university for their Masters of Architecture. We came together because of our passion for using architecture to help others in need. Many times students are simply gathering under trees for school, or attending school in unsafe and dark structures. These circumstances cause students limited opportunity because they cannot have school when it's rainy, and dark unsafe structures do not encourage learning, but make it more difficult. Our design is an encouraging learning environment that is also structurally safe. Also, since the local community members help to build the structure and provide materials and land, they gain a sense of ownership that brings dignity to the community. The main goal in providing a safe and encouraging learning environment is to optimize the opportunity and initiate social improvement.

RedCody1 karma

Both a structure and staffing are necessary for a school to exist (as well as a handful of other things). This non-profit's expertise is architecture ... hence a building.

Why don't you start a non-profit focused on staffing schools in Burkina, then you can partner with them.

blayton041 karma

In Burkina Faso, there is a lack of schools to staff. I think that the teachers and the structures need to come together at the same time. This is why we work with the Ministry of Education, whom provides trained teachers for the schools. In our set-up, we are providing the skills we know best - design services, and the Ministry of Education provides what they know best - guidelines for the education and the teachers.

TwilgihtSparkle-1 karma

It makes white people feel good when they build it.

blayton041 karma

People should feel good when they do good things! We are humanly wired to have such a feeling, that's how we know we did something right! But it has nothing to do with skin color. A person is a person.

greenpinkie6 karma

Good on you for trying to make a difference. Please take these questions in the constructive spirit that they are meant. How are the teachers and other school staff supported to provide quality education once you guys leave the structure in place? There's a wealth of research showing that teacher quality is the strongest determinant of educational outcomes, but little suggestion that school design has an impact once you get past safety. How are you measuring the outcomes of your work?

blayton044 karma

Thank you for the questions. We are working with another non-profit, buildOn, who employs local people in Burkina Faso and has a partnership with the Ministry of Education there. The Ministry of Education provides trained teachers for the primary school. Before the village gets a school, every community members signs a covenant - promising to help build the school, provide the local materials and land, and send their girls and boys to the school in equal numbers. The buildOn staff monitors the progress of the school from the ground. After three years, if all aspects of the covenant have been upheld, the process begins in getting the village a second school. This approach incentives success.

abortionsforall2 karma

There's a wealth of research showing that teacher quality is the strongest determinant of educational outcomes

The strongest predictor of educational outcomes, by far, is the educational level of the parents.

blayton042 karma

This is a good point. Only 28.7% of the entire population in Burkina Faso is literate, including adults. That is why the school also serves the community. During the evenings the school serves an Adult Literacy Program, and at other times it serves a community center and a vaccination clinic. It serves more than just the children, but also the entire community!

LesserDuchess5 karma

Hi, you're doing great work! How did you originally get started in building a school for the villiage?

blayton041 karma

After I returned from my trip to Nicaragua, helping to build a sustainable housing community, I knew it was time to do something else. I was finishing up a book, "A Walk in Their Shoes," by jim Ziolkowski. He is the founder of buildOn, another non-profit that has been building schools in 7 developing countries for over 20 years. I contacted them and quickly they became a partner for this project. It was just a great opportunity that I could not pass up!

boystownWonder3 karma

Thank you for taking the effort to do something for Burkina Faso.

  1. You team has 11 students/architects - and not one member from Burkina Faso. What's the thinking behind this ?

  2. Burkina Faso already has a severe paucity of toilets. I dont remember seeing one in your school either. why ?

  3. Have either of you built anything before in the USA or anywhere else or is this your first try at building anything ?

  4. Finally - for a design team, you seem to have made the school design pretty hard to access (http://issuu.com/forburkinafaso/docs/for_burkina). The page is crowded with lots of distractions and the actual design is on the page header. Clicking on the header either makes it too big to read or too small to read. The fact that the design itself is so hard to access makes me wonder about your team's competence.

blayton042 karma

Thank you for all the questions! 1) Our team is very diverse. We have one member from Columbia, one from Kuwait, one from Ecuador, one from the Dominican Republic, and many from the U.S. It would be a great blessing to have someone from Burkina Faso on our team, but we just haven't been exposed to that opportunity yet. We work with people on the ground in Burkina Faso, though. So, even though they aren't a part of the "For Burkina Team," so to speak, they still are a part of the big picture team. It's critical to have input from the locals and people living in the very place that we are building the school. If there was ever an opportunity to add a Burkinabe native to our team in the U.S. we'd love to. 2) There will be a latrine near the school, it will include 1 stalls for girls and one stall for boys. It's not shown in the design because it was not part of our project scope, but buildOn always includes one with the schools. So, they will supply the latrine. 3) Four of us are architectural professionals and work at professional architecture firms in the United States. For Burkina is something we do in addition to our "typical daytime / salary jobs." So, yes, we have professional experience with built projects. 4) I agree with you. It is difficult to navigate the pages on ISSUU. We are working to put the design up on a section of our website, instead of having it on another platform as it is now. Once it is posted there, it should be much easier to preview. It's simply a work in progress. I appreciate you bringing this to my attention, however.

dvsnbyz3r02 karma

What's in it for you?

blayton041 karma

It's my dream to do humanitarian architecture, or design that uses the built and natural environment to improve the welfare and lived experiences of inhabitants. I studied a lot about informal settlements and rural poverty during my time at college. After college I went to Nicaragua to help build a sustainable housing community in a rural village. I saw a lot of children there that could not go to school because it was either too expensive to attend or too far away to get to. So, my passion for humanitarian architecture grew to encompass the need of access to education in these impoverished places. It's just in my heart and I believe it's what I am supposed to do with my life.

3giraffes1 karma

Why did you chose to start your own program? How is your program different / unique from the existing humanitarian architecture programs today?

blayton041 karma

Thanks for the questions! There are only a few humanitarian architecture firms in the U.S. MASS Design Group, Scale Africa, Estudio Cruz, Urban Think Tank, Journeyman International, and there was Architecture for Humanity. If there are any others, I apologize, but am unaware of them. I studied all of this practices during college, as I obtained my Masters Degree in Architecture, with a focus on humanitarian design. Architecture for Humanity, my greatest inspiration during school, just went bankrupt. The reality is that there is so much humanitarian need, and not enough humanitarian firms. However, the challenge is that it is hard to sustain a humanitarian practice. We are working to develop a plan to become sustainable. So, I started my own practice because the ones that were already established were not options. They rarely "hire" people, and if they do, the pay is not enough to live on, or they are hard to get into. That was a particular challenge of mine because I have student loans to pay off... a lot of them. So, taking a pro bono job, and only a pro bono job was not an option. And with so few options, it just didn't work out. I think we are unique because we all young professionals and university students with a long term goal of using humanitarian architecture as the catalyst for social change. We are small and located in a relatively small city. We have partnered on many occasions with our local community. And we want to develop a sustainable model for our future projects, as well.

NorbitGorbit1 karma

what was the hardest administrative/paperwork obstacle to starting a non-profit?

blayton041 karma

It actually was not as bad as a lot of people make it sound. We have a volunteer lawyer, however. So, most of the paperwork was done by the lawyer. I definitely recommend finding a lawyer to work pro-bono for anyone's non-profit start-up. We had to pay the fee to obtain our 501(C)3 status and had to write Bylaws, but I really can't complain about it. With the help of a professional lawyer, it's almost been a breeze. It's actually harder to keep up with in house paperwork, such as book keeping, over anything else.

rudecrudetattooed1 karma

a close friend just finished up peace corps service in BF did you work with any of them?

blayton041 karma

Unfortunately I have not. I have looked into the Peace Corps many times. It's a great program for many people. I respect those who work there immensely.

fuckyou-11 karma

wow, thats impressive. I wish I could do stuff like this, all I have to tell, I finished a stupid studium and got a boring dead end job at 27, plus I contribute nothing to society. where do I sign up?^ ah well, a real question would be good, as this is an ama... dunno, how do you feel about others of your age that just waste their time?

blayton041 karma

I'm not sure that anything is waste of time. I do think we are all here with a purpose in life, whether we realize it at a young age or we realize it later. I also work a regular salary job, actually 2, just to pay my bills. For Burkina is something that the team does without pay, on the side, because we have a passion to do this kind of work. I think it can be tough to live in society and still do one's dream job because the reality of this world is that, well, we have bills! But I think we have to own the right attitude with even the things we do not love to do. God always has a plan. Change the attitude to change the outcome. Your life is not a waste.

in_the_airoplane1 karma

I'm sure you've heard of Pencils of Promise, too?

blayton041 karma

Yes I have! I read the book, "The Promise of Pencil" by Adam Braun, in 2014. I had already started For Burkina, but was interested to hear Adam's story, too. I am always re-inspired by books that begin by young professionals with a passion for a specific cause. You just have to go for it, and keep after it! Pencils of Promise seems to be doing great work, as well!