Student - February 22, 2011

Helping build a school in Kenya

Champion runner Lornah Kiplagat wants to build a girls’ school in her homeland, Kenya. Students and teachers from Van Hall Larenstein in Velp have been giving on-the-spot advice on the design. ‘Even when there was a power cut we worked on.’

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'Lornah has a big heart and is tremendously driven. She is famous but when you talk to her she is very normal', says Sytske van der Kooi, student of Garden and Landscape Design. Along with eight other students and seven teachers, Sytske went to Kenya where the Kenyan-Dutch long-distance runner Lornah Kiplagat wants to found a school for 300 underprivileged girls aged between 14 and 18 who would otherwise not have access to secondary education. The land on which the school is to be built - complete with dormitories, an athletics track, a church and a farm - lies near the town of Eldoret.

No detours for a view
The soil scientists, land and water managers and landscape designers from Velp first clapped eyes on the spot at the end of January and beginning of February. They have analysed the soil and the potential water supplies, and their conclusions have been taken into account in the plans.  'At present the plan is to put the athletics track in a valley with an underground layer of clay. During the rainy season it will be waterlogged. But it is fertile land for agriculture', says student of Land and Water Management Nick Bakker by way of an example.
The six students of Garden and Landscape Design are designing the layout as an assignment for their degree course. Van der Kooi: 'There are altitude differences and difference types of landscape to the ones we know in the Netherlands.'  And in Kenya people do not care so much about what the landscape looks like, adds her fellow student Tim Kort. 'People walk vast distances just to get from A to B. They won't make a detour for a viewing point.'

Potholes
 The team were put up on a farm, and Lornah stayed there with them for a few days too. It was an intensive time. 'We did a lot, and even when there was a power cut we worked on', says Van der Kooi. Some things took a bit of getting used to. 'People are poorer, facilities are not as good. On the main roads you have to watch out that you don't hit the roof because of potholes in the road surface', says Bakker.
Due to a lack of maps and knowledge about the land, it was no excessive luxury to have seven teachers along on the trip. Teacher of Garden and Landscape Design Johan Vlug: 'We would never have found out so much with a smaller team.' The students are happy to be involved in the project too. Van der Kooi: 'We get to design the environment in which the girls will live for four years, going to school and doing sport and getting an opportunity to develop themselves.'  
Check out the students' whole  photo album and weblog.

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