Many years ago, the rural community of Yamuna Khadar that resides on the bank of Yamuna in Delhi, lost its only school to demolition by the city’s development authority.
Yamuna Khadar being a slum, none of its inhabitants had any formal land in their name, despite having lived in the area for decades. With eviction orders, most of the structures were brought down – including an NGO-run school for the children.
But youngsters in the community didn’t lose hope. Led by Naresh Pal, they erected a structure using plastic sheets and bamboo fitments, where children could continue studying.
However, a structure made of plastic sheets is not sturdy enough. So imagine the plight of students during monsoons. They wouldn’t know what to expect – a leaking roof or probably no roof at all!
This is when two architects, Swati Janu and Nidhi Sohane, came up with the idea of constructing a school that could not only be easily dismantled but would also protect the children during monsoons.
It was called the ModSkool project, and was undertaken with the aim of providing climate responsive, self-built, and better sanitation solutions for the community.
“The community members had filed a Public Interest Litigation or PIL, following which they were granted permission by the government for rebuilding the school. This school could be let off from being demolished as long as it’s structure remained temporary,” explains Swati, who is the creative director of mHS CITY LAB, a social enterprise working for the homeless in India.
After coming up with the design of a low-cost and modular ‘anti-demolition’ school for 250 kids that could be disassembled, the duo joined hands with the community members and worked for almost a year to make the project a reality.
The engineering expertise was provided by Mr. Vinod Jain, the director of Vintech Consultants, who was also the largest donor for the project.
However, the big task was raising funds. But it didn’t turn out as hard as they expected. “Our family members and friends happily volunteered for the cause and we were able to collect enough funds to go ahead with the plan immediately. Our agenda was to rebuild the school before the onset of monsoon,” says Nidhi.
Starting with just three members in June, Swati and Nidhi soon had over 50 volunteers on board.
The workforce included architecture students, photographers, journalists and even some parents from Yamuna Khadar, who took time off their busy schedules just to contribute to the cause. After three weeks of hard work, the dedicated group was able to raise the structure.
“The classes have been running for two weeks now. Despite many challenges, we have successfully managed to put the roof up in time for the monsoons and are now only left with the flooring, which will be completed after the monsoons,” she proudly mentions.
But the architects are not done yet!
“By building the school, we feel that our engagement with the community at Yamuna Khadar has just begun and we hope to help in putting up more facilities such as a library and toilets next,” Swati says.
To know more about the project, you can write to the folks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you wish to contribute to their initiative, you can reach out on Facebook.