University of Nottingham architecture students are asking for crowd-funding support to help them build a nursery in a South African village, ensuring its toddlers can access vital pre-school education.


Some 39 second-year undergraduate architecture students will head out to construct the new facility at the Rethuseng Créche in Lephepane Village, Limpopo, in just four weeks over Easter 2017.


Current facilities at the nursery drastically need improving to get young children school-ready, as they comprise just a single room, with no water supply and very basic toilets. 


Project Myemyela (which means ‘smile’ in Sotho) will provide over 80m2 of new accommodation, new toilets and cooking facilities, and a reliable water supply that it is hoped will be shared with the village.


For several months, participating students have competed in teams to develop innovative architectural designs for the new nursery. 


The winning concept, which will be built on site, is a “deceptively simple solution to providing practical enclosed classrooms and external, shaded space for the teaching of pre-school children that will create a fun, landmark building for the community”, explained John Ramsay, Live Build project lead at the University.


“The design permits a quick, efficient approach to building - the students must complete the project in four weeks - and is well suited to the available technology and construction methods in rural South Africa. Its form reflects traditional building in the area, while using simple modern materials in novel ways,” John adds.


The construction project is wholly funded by participating students. Each had to raise £2,000 in contribution towards the building materials and their flights in parallel to their studies.


Accompanied by six to eight academic and technical staff from the University’s Department of Architecture & Built Environment, the students will also carry out the on-site construction themselves.


The project team will be supported by a local network including Education Africa, the Thusanang Trust and many small contractors and suppliers in the nearby town of Tzaneen.


Using funds raised, more than 90% of materials and equipment will be bought or rented within 50km of the site. This effort to support the local economy is extended to employ skilled labour from surrounding towns and villages on the build where possible.


Project Myemyela is the seventh instalment in the University’s live build initiative which gives second-year students the opportunity to design and build a nursery in South Africa.


John Ramsay said: “Every student emerges with a deep understanding of place, social responsibility and technical resolution that is impossible to replicate in the studio.”


The students gain lots of valuable hands-on experience during the live build course module, which is a unique offering among architecture courses in UK universities.


“Participating students often outperform their peers. The project is recognised for particular praise by external examiners and is always the most compelling thing in portfolios when they are applying for work,” explains John.


Project Tshela which ran last year saw students develop a brand new nursery in a small village called Mokomotsie, also in the Limpopo region.


Watch the Project Tshela video here:


Prior to the project, its existing school ran only on a volunteer basis, confined to a basic 3m x 6m brick structure. Many students were shocked at the poor conditions the school operated under.


The new building is now three times the size of the original nursery space. The larger space and improved facilities allowed the school to get formal registration and therefore government funding.


Building nurseries like these helps to readdress the inequality faced by pre-school children from rural African villages who often don’t have access to education prior to primary school.


Project Tshela students also developed innovative new technology to help build the nursery in a four-week turn around. 


This included an ingenious and economical design for a ply web truss - a lightweight structural component which spanned the required 10-metre building width and overhangs.


This simple timber box beam, with ply acting as its webbing was fixed externally to make the structure appear more elegant and increase its resistance to torsion. It was conceived by the winning team of five students and was finessed prior to travel in consultation with structural engineers and through prototyping in the workshop.


This clever design allowed the student builders to get the roof on the structure quickly and therefore working in much-needed shade for the majority of the construction period.


Ryan Boultbee, from last year’s the winning team, said: “The truss allowed us to span the greatest distance unimpeded with the least amount of work or material waste yet still arrive at an architecturally-beautiful solution.


“As far as I am aware this project represents the greatest internal span produced by the South Africa Live Build Unit so far. Working as a team we each used our respective skills to strengthen and enrich the scheme and bring to life the building we see today,” Ryan added.


Ryan is also emphatic that future second-year architecture students should take the Live Build module. “The project offers a long list of experience, life skills, and opportunities, but there is only one way to find out what they are for you.”



To donate to individual students or the entire team, please visit the Project Myemyela Just Giving page:


For the latest information on the project, visit: or like the Project Myemyela Facebook page.




Fourteen year old South African Zameer Dada has been crowned the 1st ever African spelling bee champion.

Dada beat 26 other top spellers from nine African countries to be crowned Africa's champion orthographer.

The contestants came from all corners of the continent. Some of the nations represented include Zimbabwe, Malawi, Nigeria and Lesotho.

Competitors may be separated by borders, but are united by a mastery of the Queen's language. One by one they took to friendly rivalry, belting out words in an attempt to be Africa's top speller.

As the words got trickier the numbers dwindled.

First prize proved elusive to many.

It was down to the top three contenders - South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia all looking to make history.

Dada was all too happy to share his winning formula.

Organisers say they are working towards greater participation. They say the inaugural competition is one way to celebrate the African child.

Rapid climate change is a major topic in contemporary science, in particular, the role of human actions. This period, in which humans have been actively altering the Earth and its systems, is known as ‘THE ANTHROPOCENE’. Current scientific debate whether human activity warrants formal definition as a new phase in Earth history. I ask, has the planet been altered to such an extent as to leave an irreversible mark on the environment? 

According to Paul Crutzen Anthropocene means the time since 18th Century, when the increase in burning of fossil fuels released large quantities of carbon dioxide, previously stored within the Earth’s forests, into the atmosphere. This carbon dioxide together with methane and nitrous oxide, accounts for the recent spike in temperatures over the last few centuries. 

However, others such as William Ruddiman suggest this time began when humans started farming the land. He argues that Anthropocene began over 8000 years ago, when land clearance for agricultural purposes started the release of CO2 previously trapped within vegetation through activities like slash-and-burn agriculture and livestock grazing. The worry is that these activities will, or have already, led to surpassing of upper planetary ‘thresholds’ which will hinder continued functioning of the earth without negative consequence. 

Slash and burn agriculture: beginning the human-induced release of stored carbon over 8000 years ago


So, what is actually happening?

Climate changes naturally in time. The last 2.6 million years, the Quaternary period, was characterised by repeated cool phases, ice ages, with each period followed by warmer conditions. We live in one of these warm intermissions. Increase in temperature is thus not the problem, as this occurs naturally with changes in the Earth’s orbit. The issue is the rate and extent of this increases in temperature.

The most recent assessment report by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) states that between 1970 and 2010, the shallow oceans have warmed about 0.11oC annually coupled with loss of ice on the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, plus ocean acidification. This raises concerns of changing climate as it affects plants, animals, people and places, all of which suffer from accelerated change. 

Consequences: Fauna and Flora

Under current warming, extinction of many of the World’s species is imminent. Rates of species loss exhibit numbers high enough to indicate that, today, we may be in the middle of another mass extinction event, with loss of biodiversity occurring at levels much greater than that which would occur under conditions not influenced by human activity. There have been a total of 5 mass extinctions recorded in known Earth history. Mass extinction is defined as an event where a total of ¾ of species are lost. Today, we could be in a human-enhanced 6th event. 

When climate changes, animals and plants adjust to changes in habitat altered by temperatures. As this occurs, species respond by shifting from where they live. If these climatic changes occur too quickly, these organisms struggle to adjust at a speed fast enough to survive. These species are pushed into a smaller habitat areas, termed as ‘climatic envelope’. Species in warm areas shift poleward as temperatures near the equator increase. However, where do plants and animals living at the North and South Poles go? The simple answer is, NOWHERE!

One of the more well-known animals likely to disappear as a result of global warming: its choice is adaption or extinction


In 2002 the Larsen B Ice Shelf in Antarctica, collapsed. An area of around 12.5km2 detached from the main ice shelf, which scientists believe to be the result of dramatic retreat of the shelf in recent years. West Antarctica is showing similar instability. Current polar research is focusing on understanding the changes occurring, and how these relate to global warming. If Antarctica alone melts, it will result in about 60m of global sea level rise, enough to cause drastic change all life on Earth.


 The Larsen B Ice Shelf collapse in 2002

As much as the IPCC has advocated the need for action, global powers have been slow to respond. Many promote the need for clean energy, sustainable development and appropriate policy making. By 2050 the Earth’s population will be over 10 billion. These people need food, water and housing. We need to rethink our response to climate change, it requires cooperation between disciplines, and universal collaboration. Scientists, policy makers and everyone else should to act on, and deal with, the consequences.

Emma Cooper is a student at Royal Holloway, London University, in her final year.

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