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‘Green’ in on curriculum at Jeppe Park Primary

Written by Sulaiman Philip
The school is a living laboratory for green construction and its innovative education curriculum will improve the learning experience.

A disused shoe factory in downtown Johannesburg has been reclaimed as a primary school for 45 children. It also recently became the first school in Africa to receive a four-star Green Star rating for its sustainable and ecologically friendly design.Bringing green thinking into the school space.

Jeppe Park Primary is a living laboratory for green construction and its innovative education curriculum will improve the learning experience.

Planned to offer high-quality, low-cost education to inner city children, the school benefitted from the help of Johannesburg-based architects and construction professionals in the green economy.

The school’s small construction budget led to innovative solutions that are being celebrated. Dry-wall offcuts and wooden pallets were recycled to build classrooms and furniture, the library floor was laid using reclaimed wood, rubble from the renovations was used to build a new ramp, and recovered corrugated sheeting became new bathroom ceilings.

The play area was designed to be a part of the learning process and nature forms a holistic part of everyday life at the school. As well as indoor planting and a courtyard with recycled palette planters for trees and plants, the school has started growing vegetables to supplement the children’s lunches.

Melanie Smuts, the school’s founder and CEO of non-governmental organisation Streetlight Schools, said, “Our major considerations were cost and how to create a child-friendly space in an industrial area. But it has been amazing to see how many of these principles also lead to designing an education space that is sustainable and environmentally friendly. And our students love it.”

Environmental rating

The renovation of the building and its waste, energy and water systems are all environmentally-friendly. It serves a more noble purpose, says Dorah Modise, CEO of the Green Building Council of South Africa. “Not only does this school bring healthy green spaces and green thinking to disadvantaged scholars, it is also starting the very necessary process of greening the education sector. It will go a long way towards helping these children understand that resources are finite and come at a price.”

There are three rating levels, four to six stars, that apply to different sectors including interiors, retail, education and residential buildings. Jeppe’s four-star rating means it is an example of best practice in its field.