Wiggins Secondary School pupils, from left, Mbongeni Hlongwa; Katlego Sello; Ntando Mlambo; Lindokuhle Zulu and Sbongakonke Gumede, with their design using an existing but abandoned building on the school property to convert into a computer room and library. Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)
Wiggins Secondary School pupils, from left, Mbongeni Hlongwa; Katlego Sello; Ntando Mlambo; Lindokuhle Zulu and Sbongakonke Gumede, with their design using an existing but abandoned building on the school property to convert into a computer room and library. Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)

Concrete plans for life after Covid

By Duncan Guy Time of article published Oct 16, 2021

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PUPILS from sub-economic Cato Manor don’t only hope the future will be better; they are planning it.

They’ve put forward carefully compiled plans to convert unused and derelict space on their school grounds into new structures that can help improve the quality of schooling for future generations.

This week, pupils who take engineering, graphics and design entered a competition themed “What should a post-Covid high school look like?” inviting suggestions of how “negative spaces” could be turned around.

Their ideas for change included considering social distancing, sanitising and adequate ventilation as essential parts of future school architecture.

The winning team, Thandolwethu Majola and Zengakhona Bekwa, of Wiggins Secondary School, with their arts and sport centre. Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)

Winners Thandolwethu Majola and Zengakhona Bekwa came up with the idea of developing a sport and art centre at Wiggins Secondary School, which they attend, giving pupils the opportunity to develop talents they may have missed out on during the pandemic.

“There’s space for 50 people and many windows so that air can pass through,” they told the Independent on Saturday, noting that these ideas could be applied to other schools too, including new schools, “since no schools have been built since the outbreak”.

Another team from the same school sought to solve the issue of restricted hours at the local community library where they may access books, computers, wi-fi and printers for only half an hour at a time, with only 40 to 50 people being allowed to enter at one time.

Mbongeni Hlongwa, Katlego Sello, Ntando Mlambo, Lindokuhle Zulu and Sbongakonke Gumede came up with the idea of a more spacious facility to occupy “negative space” they identified in a room “filled with torn chairs and broken pipes”.

Importantly, it was on school grounds.

“The community library closes at 4.30pm and people get mugged outside. In 2019 more than 50 people lost their phones in the parking lot,” said said Mbongeni Hlongwa “We also need more space between computers (for social distancing).”

Making room for sport was what inspired Khanyisa Kango; Luyanda Mkhize; Amahle Mhlongo and Samkeliswe Bavuma of Bombela Secondary School. Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)

At Bonela Secondary School Khanyisa Kango, Luyanda Mkhize, Amahle Mhlongo and Samkeliswe Bavuma thought of how much they would like to participate in activities such as netball and basketball instead of having nothing other than life orientation activities and “chilling at break” outside the classroom.

They identified some bare ground surrounded by classrooms, all but one of which is functioning, as their “negative space”.

Their model, like all the others made from paper, cardboard, match sticks and pieces of sponge, showed a netball court to replace the bare patch of ground, spectator stands and abundant toilets to enable social distancing, windows for ventilations. And a ticket office to collect entrance fees so that it could be income-generating.

Turning chaos into order was the aim of Kwanele Msibi, Jabulile Dubazane, Lwandile Masongo and Asande Mngoma who designed a parking area with entrance and exit gates to ease the congestion at their school, Umkumbane School. Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)

Umkumbane Secondary pupils Lwandile Masongo, Asande Mngoma, Jabulile Dubazane and Kwanele Msibi thought of the congested parking outside the school and designed a car park that would allow more vehicles, with entrance and exit gates to make it organised.

Another display from the school featured outdoor seating.

The three schools participated in the event through the Umkhumbane Schools Project that has been working on-site and in partnership with the five Cato Manor High Schools since 2012, assisting pupils to access top universities and colleges in South Africa.

The 14 teams that entered have been helped by mentors from the Durban University of Technology and its Level 6 EduMove programme through which DUT architecture students use their design skills to transform campus “negative spaces” into positive, productive space.

The winners, who said their career dreams ranged from becoming medical specialists to engineers and architects, received vouchers for school uniforms as well as cash prizes.

The Independent on Saturday

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