After months of commitment, five schools made it to the final judging of the Parabongo Challenge on 26th February at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Judges from the RICS, Engineers Without Borders, Liverpool John Moores University and Alison Hall from Seeds for Development, had the hard task of choosing a winner and runner up.

After four hours of deliberation, the judges made their unanimous decision to award first place to the team who called themselves ‘Timu Matumaini’ – Swahili for ‘Team Hope’ – from King Ecgbert School in Sheffield.

The students will now travel down to London to meet the judges and professionals from Arup to further develop their design with the aim to actually build it.

“An outstanding design, the team showed that they had clearly thought through every aspect of the brief.”

Alison Hall Seeds for Development
Alison Hall – Seeds for Development, the inspiration for this year’s COYO competition

COYO’s Parabongo Vision Hope School Challenge stemmed from a conversation between Professor Paul Clarke and COYO Managing Director Alison Watson. Paul was telling Alison about a hugely committed lady – Alison Hall of charity ‘Seeds for Development’ – who had been working in Parabongo, Northern Uganda, for the past seven years, helping to empower the local community to improve their own lives to become socially and economically resilient.

“The inclusion of the community in the ownership of the school really shows that the team understand the importance of this to the success of the design.”[/quote] In a country with high levels of poverty, low levels of literacy and where very few have the skills or experience to earn their own living, education is paramount. And so, in April 2015, COYO launched the Parabongo Challenge to raise awareness of the challenges faced by this village community, and ultimately to provide them with a school to educate 1000 children age between 3 and 18.

“The team showed impressive restraint with the building design and kept the main structure simple; the research of local materials was good. They also mentioned the important subject of maintenance.”

Alison Watson, MD of COYO:

“It was completely logical that we launched this very special competition. The whole point of the Design Engineer Construct!® (DEC) learning programme is to enable young people to lead on their own construction projects. At level 1, their brief is to design an Eco Classroom – a simple, standalone building with a purpose to educate the local community – so even the youngest learners are one step ahead.

“A clear development of existing architecture and building skills available locally.”

“If children can achieve so much through a school KS3 project, they certainly have the wherewithal to have a go at designing, engineering and constructing a real school project! And I do hope that the lessons learned from communities who have to be sustainable in the way they live, will positively impact learning in the classroom, and in the home.”

“Very sustainable and linked closely to vernacular architecture.”

On the day of judging Alison Hall arrived with her usual infectious enthusiasm, saying, “I’m thinking as one of the people in Parabongo, and the impact on their community; the feasibility of the building and the upkeep of the school. It’s so important to consider how local people would react and respond to it, how realistic it is to build and maintain, and especially how likely it is to be torched or burned in a bush fire and then rebuilt. I’m really interested in the sustainability of the whole project, looking beyond the building and especially how British school children made their decisions. It’s really exciting to reach this stage!”

St Ecgbert's - Team Hope



The winning team, made up of four Year 10 students, Jessica Chamberlain, Jessica Mellor, Alex Wheatley and Katie Wilkinson, took on professional Architecture, Engineering and Construction disciplines to create a school that brought some fantastic comments:

“All of the entries were wonderful and I am so impressed by the work, imagination, research and creativity that went into each project. The one that really stood out for me was Team Timu Matumaini from King Ecgbert School.
The detail from needs and wants through to the handprints on the walls is just exceptional. I don’t know how they did it but they captured the local community, environment and spirit of Vision Hope. They were the only school that mentioned computers, created sustainable solutions for toilets and growing food. Their suggested building materials are local, bringing employment and community involvement into the local area.
Above all, in my mind I can see their school in the village today, yet being a beacon of future sustainable development.  I just love it. Well done team Timu Matumaini. I hope that one day you will come and see your school in action!
Alison Hall – Seeds for development

“An outstanding design, the team showed that they had clearly thought through every aspect of the brief.”

“A clear development of existing architecture and building skills available locally.”

“The inclusion of the community in the ownership of the school really shows that the team understand the importance of this to the success of the design.”

“Good example of security with high-level ventilation.”

“Very impressed by the focus on the social factors.”

“The team showed impressive restraint with the building design and kept the main structure simple; the research of local materials was good. They also mentioned the important subject of maintenance.”

“The proposed solutions were simple, realistic and appropriate.”

“Very sustainable and linked closely to vernacular architecture.”

Our runners up

Runner up is team NGD – Next Generation Designers – from St Ambrose Barlow RC High School in Salford. The team of 8 Year 11 students created a single storey building that also comprised an underground network of classrooms. A spectacular visualisation gave the judges a real sense of the space.p, returning comments such as:

“Great video! Very professional and loved the fly-through of the school.

“From a technical perspective this is an excellent submission, the website and 3D walkthrough are of a very high standard as is the school design.”

Well done to both teams, and to all those students who entered the Parabongo Challenge. We’ll be following the story of the Vision Hope School as it happens.

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