Ilima Conservation Primary School

Descriptions & Plan

In a remote part of rural DRC, AWF built a different kind of primary school.

When AWF arrived in Ilima, the local school was a ramshackle building that failed to serve the educational needs of its students. Located in a remote part of the forest in northwest DRC, Ilima’s community school rarely attracted the best teachers. Its isolated location and harsh tropical climate make the building of permanent infrastructure challenging.

A forest landscape offers a unique opportunity for education and wildlife conservation.

Under the umbrella of its Classroom Africa program, AWF, architectural partner, MASS Design Group, and Ilima community members teamed up to build the new, sustainable school building.Due to the rainforest climate, which is infamous for heavy rains and high heat, school walls only go up to two-thirds of the ceiling to allow for unrestricted airflow. The structure also features a large suspended roof that provides extra shade from sun and shelter during rains. Rain catchments allow for rainwater collection, which is used in agriculture.

Ilima was chosen as a site for the community’s ongoing involvement with AWF on land-use planning and other conservation actions designed to protect habitat for the endangered bonobo.

A teachers’ training guide was developed on environmental and conservation education, and the school serves five villages in a 23-kilometer radius. Over 95 percent of sixth-grade students passed their primary school exit exams, the highest rate yet since AWF began supporting the school.

Going beyond the building.

Led by MASS, school construction was carried out by community members. The community was trained and employed throughout the duration of the construction process. This transfer of knowledge will allow community members to maintain their school building, ensuring that the building does not fall into disrepair and leaving the community with newly learned, employable skills.

This beautiful school fosters learning opportunities around conservation, with classrooms that offer views of the forest, reinforcing the link to the natural environment. Ilima Conservation Primary School has found a friend in the United State. The school recently received a special donation from a suburban Chicago primary school, where students held a fundraiser in support of African apes and education, for contribution to Ilima.