Ryerson students to build school in Ghana

While other university students prepare for summer jobs, summer school or their last shot at international travel before “real life” sets in, a group of Ryerson University students is preparing to embark on an adventure that incorporates all three – a school-building mission in Ghana.

Led by Ryerson’s Department of Architectural Science, a multi-disciplinary team of 25 undergraduate students, three professors and two recent Ryerson alumni will travel to the village of Kpedze Todze in Ghana for one month to establish a pre-school/kindergarten facility for approximately 50 local children.

The Ryerson group, with training in architecture, interior design, early childhood education, fashion and image arts, will assess the existing educational site and building, and design, construct and furnish a new facility.

The Ghana Project is intended to be the first phase in a series of small buildings in an academic village for Kpedze Todze, a Volta-region village located not far from the regional centre of Ho. The plan is to conceive a two-classroom facility (including latrines), for approximately 50 children, 4-5 years of age, two teachers and two assistants.

The Ryerson team will create a template for this village and leave it with the people of Kpedze Todze to establish roots.

“With a relatively high literacy rate, low violence and good health care, Ghana is a success story in Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Ian MacBurnie, associate professor in the Department of Architectural Science and head of the Ghana Project. “Building schools is building community and anything we can do to help the country’s educational system flourish can make a real impact on Ghana’s continued success.

“The Ghana Project is the perfect example of Ryerson’s focus on innovative, career-ready education, providing students with a link from the conceptual to the real, by having them not only design the school, but build it and interact with the community.

“Experiential learning is a priority at Ryerson, with such opportunities embedded in the classroom, in specialized learning activities, in the community, in the workplace and internationally.

“The Ghana Project will provide students with hands-on field experience, community involvement and the chance to partner internationally with another academic institution, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, Ghana.

“With the assistance of KNUST faculty, local professionals and the villagers themselves, the students will conceptualize and realize their designs, actually building the school while earning course credits.”

MacBurnie led a similar international building initiative in 2007. The Home In Muzaffarabad project saw a small group of undergrads and new alumni travel to Pakistan to provide earthquake relief in the form of a more sustainable prototypical home for a rural community of 28 families.

Another element of experiential learning the Ghana Project students will have the chance to explore is working in a team with other disciplines, as they would in the workforce. The Ghana Project draws on Ryerson’s expertise in a number of areas in order to leave the townspeople of Kpedze Todze with a completed school that’s ready to open its doors to children.

Media, families and the public alike can follow the students’ adventures and architectural progress daily on the student-run Ghana Project blog at: http://ghanaschooldesign.blogspot.com/. Updated content from Ghana, including photos and video, will also be available throughout the duration of the Ghana Project at: http://www.ryerson.ca/news/media/Ghana.  

Ryerson University is Canada’s leader in innovative career-focused education, offering close to 90 PhD, Masters, and undergraduate programs in the Faculty of Arts, the Faculty of Communication & Design, the Faculty of Community Services, the Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Science and the Ted Rogers School of Management.

Ryerson University has graduate and undergraduate enrolment of 26,500 students. With more than 64,000 registrations annually, The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education is Canada’s leading provider of university-based adult education.

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