Ensuring Equal Opportunity Through Design

Mkutani, Tanzania

Over the last year, SMMA’s Madeline Avina, Alexis Moser, Jason Pieper, Josiah Purin, and Ethan Seaman have been heavily involved with the Boston Professional Chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB). These SMMA team members have played an integral part in the first phase of design and construction for a new school campus for the rural village of Mkutani, Tanzania. In this phase, a new girl-friendly latrine and washroom block is being designed for the 300 girls, ages 5 to 14, who attend the Mkutani Primary School.

SMMA Team members left to right: Madeline Avina, Alexis Moser, Jason Pieper, Josiah Purin, and Ethan Seaman

The project will make a difference for all students’ education at the Mkutani Primary School; however, it will have the most significant impact on female students. As it stands, many adolescent-age girls in the community have no place to wash themselves and their clothes while going through their menstrual cycle. Because of a lack of proper facilities, these girls must go home for the remainder of the school day and often stay home for multiple days, missing classes and falling behind their studies. These absences have been shown to lower test scores in the country-wide distributed test that determines if they can attend secondary school, resulting in fewer girls attaining higher education opportunities. Additionally, school is often a safe haven for these young girls. Without continued education, they are more likely to end up in a child marriage or to experience childhood sexual violence

In addition to the contributions made by SMMA’s architects and engineers, the firm has also helped to fund the project by donating $5,000 to the Boston Chapter of Engineers Without Borders.

Making a Difference a World Away

The newly designed washroom will allow girls attend school every day, giving them the same chance at education as boys. This washroom will allow them to safely wash, store menstrual products, and dry their clothes while also providing 12 new latrines. With these additional latrines, the girls will now have one latrine for every 25 girls instead of one unsafe and dilapidated latrine for every 60 girls, which is the school's current situation.

EWB's Boston Professional Chapter has been involved in the village of Mkutani since 2014 when they began work on a potable water supply project. The need for assistance with improving the infrastructure at the Mkutani Primary School was expressed early on. Previous projects at the school include building a new residence for teachers and designing and installing water catchment systems on some the current buildings’ roofs to provide drinking water for the students at the school.

Engineering diagram of latrine in Tanzania designed by SMMA engineers

SMMA structural engineer Alexis Moser had been previously involved with EWB and brought the opportunity to the rest of her colleagues.

“I recruited them for the schoolhouse project, and because EWB primarily works in wastewater management, I really needed an architect’s help. It’s been a lot of fun working with them outside of our regular work, and a great opportunity for bettering education, not just in the U.S. but around the world.”