Revamp: Clarens Primary School

WORDS Zelia Michaels Shangase

Nourishment – for the brain and the body – are at the heart of the architectural design of Clarens Primary School in the Free State.

“A hungry child cannot digest their education.” These words of author and motivational speaker Grant D Fairley were the source of inspiration for architect Humphries Jooste when he set about designing the revamp of Clarens Primary School.

The nutrition of the learners who attend this no-fee school and who often come to school on an empty stomach became fundamental to the design. Humphries describes it as a design revolving around the nutrition centre, with classroom blocks, each accommodating a separate learning phase, fanning out from it.

Learners are supplied with two hot meals a day, subsidised by the Department of Education and sponsored by the local community. The new school had to be both innovative and cost- and energy-efficient. Smart energy was implemented through efficient natural cross-ventilation, proper roof and wall insulation, and glazing. Heat pumps replaced old geysers and the asbestos classrooms were removed and replaced by 18 new modern classrooms and learner spaces.

The architect has also been responsible for the design of other schools along similar lines, in Mamelodi, Mthatha and two in Bethlehem. Central to the layout of all four is the nutrition centre, which Humphries describes as “the heart of the school”. He hopes the design of these schools will “change the lives of these learners and lay a foundation for their further education”.

Clarens Primary School was a finalist in the Corobrik SAIA (South African Institute of Architects) Awards 2017/2018 of Merit and for Excellence.