Building Schools for Africa

Every child deserves an education in an environment fit for their learning need, this applies as much to the children of the world as it does the UK.

Summer 2015 saw the start of the journey we are now on with Building Schools for Africa. Fresh from my summer holiday having read “Starts with Why” by Simon Sinek, I got thinking about Sunesis, why we exist and what our purpose is.

The fact we have well designed schools that are great value, coupled with a fast and simple approach to getting a project started and completed, just didn’t seem enough. I still felt the business was missing something special. I felt we had more to offer.

After sitting through a number of industry presentations by Sunesis Director Tim Carey, I really brought into their ethos that every child deserves an education in an environment fit for their learning needs.

I am sure when this was written the thought process was about getting the children of the UK out of damp inefficient temporary mobile classrooms or ageing post-war solutions and into new modern buildings that are purposely designed to enhance their education.

I remembered seeing a short news story about TOMS shoes’ brilliant ‘One for One’ campaign. For every pair of TOMS shoes you buy they donate a pair of shoes to a child in a third world country. My thoughts of the Sunesis ethos expanded and I realised we are 100% right in our statement that every child does deserve an education in an environment fit for their learning need and this applies as much to the children of the world as it does the UK.

So, I quickly set to researching building schools in third world countries to see if it was viable to replicate the good work being done by TOMS. Could we offer a ‘School for a School’? It was through this research that I found Iain and Marianne Johnson who, with a group of friends, run a fantastic charity called Building Schools for Africa. Marianne responded to my email very promptly giving me details of how they operate and approximate costs to construct a school in Cameroon, the country in which they deliver.

This information plus several meetings with the charity gave us the evidence we needed to produce a business case to get the Sunesis board in agreement, which without hesitation they were fully behind.

May 2016 saw the first cheque sent to the charity, a moment I know Tim and I were very proud of. Nketisoh School, Bamenda would be the first project – twinned to the Sunesis Keynes project at Cranfield Lower School in Bedfordshire. Our great feeling about giving something back was shared with the customer, the children of Cranfield School and the project delivery team. There was a real sense of pride around the whole project. We had gone from just building a school to changing people’s lives for the better.

This sense of pride was enhanced when the leader of SHUMAS - Building Schools for Africa’s overseas NGO - Stephen Ndzerem and his wife Billion made a rare visit to the UK and made time to visit Cranfield and talk to the children about life in Cameroon. It was an experience I know they thoroughly enjoyed and one the school will also remember for years to come.

You can read more about Cranfield School in our case section here

By Kevin Dundas Product Manager, Willmott Dixon