The project looks to explore the possibilities of ethical and environmental sustainability in development assistance projects for children in developing countries. The ethical sustainability aims to use architecture as a mean of educational development for children in the slum of Kampala, and to educate the local community in how to design sustainable architecture that provides a healthy indoor environment. The environmental sustainability aims to use low-tech solutions for energy efficiency based on local building techniques, climatic conditions and sustainable materials. This should increase the local community` s awareness of the possibilities of good and non-expensive living conditions. Ethical and environmental sustainability The project`s focus on ethical sustainability relates to the potentials of designing architecture for children in developing countries, of empowering women and of strengthening the community spirit. The ethical potential lies in using architecture as a mean of educational development for children, and as a mean of educating the local community in sustainable and low-tech building techniques based on the local culture, local climate and the use of local building materials. The project has a long-term ambition of improving the local living conditions through educating the local community simple techniques of energy efficient design in terms of temperature, water usage and solar control, which will increase the local community’s awareness of the possibilities of good and non-expensive living conditions.
Through our project with designing The New Miles2Smiles center, we seek to enhance and tackle many of the issues related to poor child development and poverty in Uganda’s capitol, Kampala. As the children are the future of Uganda and an important ticket out of poverty, the new center provides great possibilities in an ethical sustainable context. The New Miles2Smiles center can through the means of low-cost daycare, pre-school education, nutrition programs and microfinance education for women break the poverty cycle in a long-term time perspective, by focusing on the children and women. Stunting and poverty is the two main factors that are closely linked with reduced years of schooling. Malnutrition may lead to stunting of children, which further often leads to low performance level at school and reduced years of education. Through the nutrition program provided through the Miles2Smiles center, the risk of malnutrition can be reduced greatly.
The New Miles2Smiles center will provide stimulating and inspiring environment for education and development. The children will be educated from an early age, and this will be a starting point to break the cycle of poverty that they have been born into. Pre-schoolers at the age of 2-5 years will be equipped with basic literacy and numeracy skills and provided with higher chances of succeeding at school and get an education. Through the mean of architecture we want to create physical surroundings to encourage learning and mental growth, curiosity, social interactions and developing through playing.
The center will also function as a community center which will provide education in nutrition and financial skills for the women, and provide the mothers with a chance to make a better life for themselves and for their children. The microfinance group at the Miles2Smiles center will help, educate and encourage saving and marketing so the adults of the community are given knowledge and possibilities to save for and invest in better housing, the child’s future education or own business.
The New Miles2Smiles center will also be designed with a focus on environmental sustainability. Low-tech and low-cost techniques for utilizing the local climatic conditions will enable cost efficient future running of the center, while at the same time educating the local community in different passive techniques that can further improve their own living conditions.
The final design has children and their development in focus and is adapted to the local climate to create comfortable and stimulating environments. The design is based on familiar material and building principles in Uganda, but is enhanced through knowledge of passive, low-tech solutions. Thus, the design will be easy to read and interpret for Ugandans, and by enabling the local community to participate in all aspects of the construction, the locals can gain experience for future job opportunities, which further proves the long-term effect on the community and the educational potential architecture beholds.
Educating through architecture
"The educational possibilities can be a starting point to break the poverty cycle that these children have been born into…", Catherine Kitongo, Director and founder of the Miles2Smiles organization.
Developmental potential when designing for children in developing countries
According to UN’s 2010 estimate of population and UN’s 2009 estimate of population under the age of 18, about 54 % of the population in Uganda fall under the category of youth (S.O.S Children, n.d. a). One of the reasons for early deaths is bad health which often is a result of malnutrition. Numbers of WHO between 2000 and 2009 point to that about 16 % of children under the age of five are underweight (S.OS Children, n.d. a). A reason for this can be the amount of care and the situation of poverty that these children are born in. Many mothers in poverty have a desperate situation of tending to family and children and at the same time earning an income to provide her family. Nutritional food is not always a given for them, but they try their best to maintain health - especially of their children.
Poverty is closely linked with poor cognitive and educational performance in children in developing countries. In most developing countries, national statistics of children’s cognitive or social-emotional development are not being registered, which contributes to the invisibility of the problem. But the percentage of disadvantaged children (per definition: children living in poverty) under the age of 5 years old is estimated to be above 60% in Uganda (2004)(Grantham McGregor et al., 2007). Uganda is classified as one of the poorest countries in the world, with the average daily income of less than 1,25 $ (9 DKK) by the World Bank Group’s poverty analysis (2011) (The World Bank Group, 2011).
To define poverty, there are different factors that have to be considered. Poverty is often associated with inadequate food, poor sanitation and hygiene, and further affecting the children’s development; poor maternal education, increased maternal stress and depression, and inadequate stimulation in the home. According to Feed The Future (The U.S. government’s Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative), The percentage of undernourished and/or stunted children in Uganda is estimated to 38 % (Feed the Future, n.d.). Children born into poverty in developing countries are often exposed to malnutrition, poor health and unstimulating environments, which all affect their cognitive, social-emotional and motoric development. They are unlikely to succeed in school and will therefore have low incomes, and not be able to provide for their own children, thus contributing to the transmission of poverty through the following generations.
The first 5 years of a child’s life are of high importance because this is when the vital developments occurs. The development of the brain happens rapidly and in different stages, which all affect and build on each other, meaning that small perturbations in these development processes can have significant and long-term effects on the brain’s functional capacity (Grantham McGregor et al., 2007). The development of the brain is closely affected by the environment, which put a great importance on to designing good stimulating physical and psychological surroundings.But even if the brain has already been affected by early perturbations in its vulnerable stages, recovery is often possible with correct interventions. As a rule of thumb; the earlier the interventions the greater the benefits. Early cognitive and social-emotional development are both important factors to determine the child’s school progress. This is especially important in developing countries, as education is the key factor to break the poverty cycle. Children in developing countries who are not able to reach their full developmental potential are less likely to complete an education and attain good income as adults, meaning that poverty and stunting are closely linked with reduced years of schooling. Fewer years of schooling together with less learning per year of schooling are factors that may further reduce their productivity. According to a study by G. Psacharopoulus and H. Patrinos from 2004, each year of schooling increases wages by between 7-11 % (Grantham McGregor et al., 2007).
There are also other factors that contribute to keeping a lower share of children getting an education in developing countries, - besides the physical and mental development of children. Such factors are inadequate schools, economic stress for the family related to the children’s education, and little knowledge about and sometimes also little appreciation of the benefits of education. In Uganda, poor children are ten times more likely to start school late than the richest children (Grantham McGregor et al., 2007). Loss of education because of the family’s economic situation is another cause for reduced years of schooling. The importance of introducing numeric and literacy skills as early as possible is therefore a great advantage, as there are uncertainties of how many years the child is able to attend school after "graduating" from the new Miles2Smiles center. Their years at the center may, for some of the children, be the only education they will get, so it is important to set a good foundation for these children. By introducing the small children to preschool education, they are also more likely to succeed when starting School.