School buildings in developing countries
A basic one or two classroom rural primary school would also require a private room or office
for the teacher or teachers and a room for storage of materials and equipment. Rooms of
about 10 m2 each would accommodate one or two teachers' own area and a room for storage.
Additionally, if the school would also be used as a community meeting centre, one of the
classrooms would need to be considerably larger than 40 m2, say 80 m2 to accommodate
about 100 people either standing or seated in rows.
Secondary schools and vocational training centres would generally be considerably larger than
primary schools and generally have at least several classrooms. Because pupils would be
finishing lessons at more or less the same time, circulation of pupils and teachers would need
to be considered. Larger schools can have classrooms positioned around a corridor or
courtyard to facilitate circulation. Secondary schools, and larger primary schools, could need
additional facilities, including a library, rooms for practical classes and workshops, an
assembly hall, a head teacher's office and general office, changing or locker rooms and
wardrobes, a sick room and possibly a dining room and dormitory.
A porch or verandah can be a particularly valuable addition to schools to provide shading to
the classrooms in hot weather that could also form an addition to the teaching, storage,
meeting or display space.
Because classrooms and other rooms in schools are generally considerably larger than rooms
in houses, this presents more of a challenge in the design and construction of the roof
compared with housing. Although the same types of roof can generally be used as for
housing, the larger scale and greater complexity of the roofs of school buildings can make the
cost of building a school per unit area considerably greater than that for a house.
Additionally, structural columns within rooms are generally not used in order not to restrict
visibility. Roofs for school buildings are considered in more detail in a subsequent section.
Siting - A level site is more suitable than a sloping one as with a sloping site considerably
more ground clearance would be required to ensure that the floors of the classrooms are
reasonably level. Also the design of the school on sloping ground would be more complex,
with possibly the need to connect rooms by ramps or stairs. The site chosen would need to
be well-drained and not subject to flooding or the risk that debris is brought down into the
school grounds after heavy rains. Tall trees can provide useful shading in hot weather, but if
the area is at risk from very high winds and storms then it would be better to site the school
away from trees which can fall or shed branches. For young children a busy main road nearby
can be a hazard, as can a river, pond or well. A fence around the school grounds can be
useful to keep animals out or to discourage young children from wandering off.
Cost - Reducing costs can be a high priority in building schools as, if this is a community
project, community members who might be relatively poor, would want to keep the
contributions they make to building the school to a level they can afford; and in government
or donor-funded programmes reducing the cost per school can enable more schools to be
built. However, it is important to take into consideration not just the cost of building the
school itself, but also the cost of maintaining it over its entire period of use. A cheaply-built
school could turn out to be a false bargain if subsequently there are defects to be put right,
materials and components need to be replaced after a relatively short time, and there is a
continuous need to undertake repairs and rehabilitation. A school should also not be built so
cheaply that it produces discomfort for the users, for example with so few openings or
windows that the rooms are too dark, or built with very light materials that heat up quickly in
the hot weather and make it uncomfortably hot in the classrooms, or with a flimsy roof that
lets in water when it rains.
Community Participation - Engaging local people, especially parents, in dialogue about the
layout and facilities at the proposed school is important for the school to meet the needs of
the local community and be looked after and cared for. In some cases local people might