18 February 2013

Our New Brick School......the challenges...

The main focus of this trip was to move forward the school build project. When I launched this project a few years ago I had no idea just how challenging it would be! Firstly raising the money! £60,000 is an awful lot of money to raise especially during the current financial climate but thanks to some amazing friends, family and supporters from all over the place we hit that target last year!

Once the money was in place we set about putting the plans into action and met with the architect to design the school.
Now we need 9 classrooms (7 Primary and 2 Nursery) and 2 dormitories, staff quarters, and I also wanted to add a small library and to have the kitchen within the school grounds. But the size of the plot is TINY!! So it was going to take a lot of thought into how we could make this happen! My main focus was that I wanted to make the classrooms bigger so that the children could actually have the space to learn and not be crammed in a small room like sardines in a can. The structure actually had to improve the learning experience not just simply be made of brick!

So last year in April we submitted plans for a school (rather like submitting a UK planning application )over 3 floors......and we waited. I made it very clear that I wanted to build in November as this was when the school had its longest annual holiday (2 months) and of course we would need to bring down the existing wooden structure to build the new one so I was adamant I did not want to impact the school term. The months went on and we heard nothing, despite continuous chasing....I kept getting myself organised for myself and my daughter to be spending 2 months in Uganda from the November 2012. Then in October 2012 the plans were rejected, Rejected because the building was not exactly 1.5m in from the boundary. So an quick adjustment was made and the plans resubmitted over 4 floors. But for me the 4 floor plan just didn't work and I became increasingly uncomfortable with it. The building had become tall and narrow and the classrooms small!! This new plan simply wasn't going to work and so in October I rushed out to Uganda in the hope of either salvaging the original plan or purchasing a piece of land next to the school that had become available for sale. I was desperate to keep to the November deadline as I had made so many arrangements for my daughter and I!

Well firstly the building control people were not budging on their original decision on the 3 storey school and I was not happy with the 4 storey amended design. So it looked like my only option was to buy more land. At lease with more land I could use some of the money raised to buy the land as the build of the school would be a lot cheaper as I could then do it all on one ground floor level. So with hope and anticipation I spent a week in negotiations on this piece of land. We were familiar with the land as we have rented it as a play area for the last 5 years. I don't know if any of you reading this have ever purchased land in Africa......but it is not easy!! The legal land titles are often missing or fake, and there are often so many issues on the land that you could purchase and then find out a few years down the line that you are in fact NOT the legal owner!

During these days I was being given the right run around and I was getting very annoyed and also a little desperate. I just felt I was not being given the whole story as to the owners and the paperwork and the legal status of the land. On the last day I called a meeting with the 'owners', the PTA at the school and some members of the community and told them that I was pulling out of the purchase. I had just uncovered a minefield of issues with the land and there was no way I was going to risk this amazing donated money.

So my time ran out and I was forced to leave without a good workable school design and no land! The flight back home was very depressing.....

We felt that our only option was to find more land in the area and so I left it to the community to search out any pieces of land that could work for us and to take any paperwork to our lawyer for her to check.

I arrived home to the UK, please to see my daughter.....but utterly deflated....

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.