Makoko Floating School rises above the slums of impoverished Nigeria
Living in the slum does not automatically entitle its residents the opportunities to get a formal education, but with the birth of a floating school, the chances of being formally educated are limitless.
The Makoko Floating School has been described by the London Design Museum as a “prototype floating structure, built for the historic water community of Makoko.”
Makoko, is a slum neighborhood located in the MakokoIwaya community of Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, and has a population of over 100,000 residents. Fishermen from the Egun speaking populace settled in the slum over 100 years ago.
Established in the 18th century primarily as a fishing village the area was not officially counted as part of the 2007 census and the population today is estimated to be much higher.
It is a community that houses thousands of Ijaws, Ilaje’s and Egun speaking populace who are predominately fish farmers and who also engage in trading activities. They lack basic amenities, lack clean water, lack power supply, and are alien to anything called development.
Although, Makoko has make shift schools including French schools built by individuals and foreign nationals to cater for the educational needs of the children in the community, they are yet largely insufficient to cater for the increasing number of children in the area.
The near existence of formal educational institutions in the area has been attributed as one of the causes of teenage pregnancy and other forms of vices rampant in the area.
In 2012 however, Nigerian architect, Kunle Adeyemi, with support from Heinrich Boll Foundation and the United Nations created a three- storey wooden floating structure to accommodate 100 elementary school children per time, who will find their way to the school by boats.
Speaking on the stimulus for its creation, Adeyemi told a media organization that “The desire to construct the school was born out of curiosity after I visited the community. And my interest in the coastal community, where despite the little income made daily by the breadwinners, they have never stopped developing the infrastructures in the community.”
Each of the floors in the school has a modern toilet and electricity supply wires (powered by a solar system) built into the school to provide lighting for the children who may want to involve in evening educational activities. The ground floor has an open space which serves as a playground for children, and sometimes, relaxation spot for Makoko residents on weekends.
As a pilot project created in 2012, the floating school has taken an innovative approach to address the community’s social and physical needs in view of the impact of climate change and a rapidly urbanizing African context. It is aimed at generating a sustainable, ecological, alternative building system and urban water culture for the teeming population of Africa’s coastal regions.
Built to float and measuring about a hundred square metres (100-square-metres), the school is a triangular form in sections constructed with a parallel series of timber A-frames on a platform supported by 256 recycled blue plastic barrels.
This world class project with beautiful architectural makeup is however, fast becoming a shadow of itself. Since 2012, the structure has not been used and the chairs, tables, roofs and bulb to lighten the classes are unavailable. A visit to the place showed that the fishermen have made the structure a resting place during their fishing expedition.
The sample floating structure which has gotten international press attention, won awards including the 2013 AR+D awards for emerging architecture, was shortlisted for the London Design Museum’s 2014 Design of the Year Award and has been nominated for the 2015 International Award for Public Art has been rejected in Nigeria.
Two factors have yet continued to impede on the maximization of the school.
On the one hand, Lagos state government is unwilling to approve the structure as a school. This is because it has tagged the slum as an illegal settlement. Thus it is almost impossible for the government to give it the support it needs to function properly.
Speaking for the Lagos state government in 2013, Commissioner for Waterfront and Infrastructure Development, Prince Adesegun Oniru said the structure is an illegal structure, and added that “it shouldn’t be there, and we are trying to get rid of structures there.”
On the other hand, the community is yet to assume full custody of the structure. Adeyemi has advised the community leaders
to take full control of the structure, get and mobilize the children to come and learn, and teachers to rise up to teach.
A source told The Nation that the community is ready to kick start the teaching and learning of formal education, but are hopeful that some good and noble persons can take it up from where Adeyemi ended it.
Meanwhile, community vigilantes are in charge of the security of the floating structure.
The Makoko Floating School is seen in this undated photo.