Empress Mentewab School

How to build a Classroom

Using local labour and materials, the first classroom has been built at Empress Mentewab School. It is a style of hut called a gojobet in Amharic.

The gojobet is five metres in diameter, which is big enough to hold four round tables (four or five pupils to a table).

The steps required to build a gojobet are:

(1) Dig a circular trench.

digging the footings for the new classroom
digging the footings for the new classroom


(2) Erect the wood frame and put on the roof.

the new classroom going up
the new classroom going up


(3) Thatch the roof with grass.

making the thatched roof
making the thatched roof


(4) Render the walls with a mud-and-straw mix.

Aba Wolde rendering the walls
Aba Wolde rendering the walls


(5) Make flowerbeds around the gojobet and plant shrubs and flowering plants.

new classroom almost finished
new classroom almost finished


(6) Make the concrete floor.

(7) Install the electricity supply and sockets.

(8) Build a paved footpath.

paving the footpath to the new classroom
paving the footpath to the new classroom


This first gojobet was made cheaply using re-cycled wood and stone from the old storm-damaged classrooom.

The maintenance costs are small, being only for the annual repair of the mud walls and the thatch.

"A gojobet is a very pleasant place to work, being cool and well-ventilated," says Kate. "It's a tight fit with all the furniture and the children, so the Grade 2 classroom for next year should have a diameter of six metres, to give more room."

A gojobet with a diameter of six metres will cost 15,000 birr (£600, 660 euros, US$900) to build, including the concrete floor and the electrical installation.

Before building any more classrooms, Kate needs to buy more land. A sum of 10,000 birr (£400, 440 euros, US$600) would be sufficient to purchase the strip of land (500 square metres) immediately to the west of the school. More funds - at least 30,000 birr (£1,200, 1,320 euros, US$1,800) - would be needed to buy the much larger area of farmland further to the west.

To make a donation to the school to enable Kate to buy more land and build additional classrooms, please see the GIVE section.