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University students improve lives in Gambia

Football Gambia

Dr Tabarak Musa Awad Ballal, undergraduate students and Ian Stapleton, Director of Football Gambia

Construction Management and Engineering undergraduates have been improving the lives of residents in a remote African village through an innovative new teaching programme.

Devised by Dr Tabarak Musa Awad Ballal, in the School Construction Management and Engineering, the programme challenged over 20 teams of students to work with UK based charity Football Gambia, to provide the best building plans for the rural village of Chessay on the north-east coast of Gambia.

Working with residents remotely, the Reading undergraduates competed to provide designs, using locally sourced materials, for a sustainable primary school, housing 150 children, a community centre, nursery and kitchen garden, which is due to be completed early next year.  

Over the past year, Dr Ballal collaborated with a substantial network of construction professionals to provide students with a wider understanding of the various professions of the construction industry. Devising the project, the first of its kind, she had to ensure the development stood both academic and economic rigour.

Dr Ballal said: "Emerging generations of construction professionals will need an ever widening awareness of the environments in which they work.  At Reading we pursue a ‘theory with practice' approach both in partnerships and internally between our faculties of expertise. This important new programme encourages students to learn new skills and think ‘outside the box' which will stand them in good stead for their chosen career."

With little existing infrastructure or running water, no electricity and a meagre 0.5 of space allocation per child, in comparison to the UK regulation of 7m2, the design challenge was by no means easy.

The 127 students were given just five weeks, whilst studying for their Construction Management, Building and Quantity Surveying BSc's, to think beyond conventional UK construction methods and develop innovative sustainable designs suitable for developing countries.

The students also had a unique opportunity to meet in person the resident chief of Cheesay who was on a UK tour with Football Gambia.

Business development manager and founder of Football Gambia, Ian Stapleton, added: "This is the first project of its kind in the area. Students' enthusiasm and desire to deliver a range of possibilities in design, has been very refreshing. As a result Chessay will have new utilities designed to a high standard, using the latest sustainable technologies. "

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