Theme: Future Thinking 

Children are our nation’s future, so having a long-term vision to improve the lives of our youngsters by providing them with a beautiful start is tantamount to planting a tree you may not see grow but that you know other generations will benefit from. Thanks to the forward-thinking Bosjes Trust, a ground-breaking new government school, Botha’s Halte, recently opened in the Breede Valley near Worcester. It not only provides a secure, uplifting and aesthetically appealing facility to educate the children of this rural community but is changing the way they are being taught. The parents may be working in the age-old ways of farming but, thanks to this excellent development, their children are being set up for a future in the 21st Century with technological connectivity and new ways of learning in a healthy state-of-the-art building. As we head into a post-pandemic world it seems more poignant than ever that they will have this amazing beginning.

The design of the school by Tiaan Meyer of Meyer & Associates, with its child-centric design and joyful, robust, clamber-proof indoor and outdoor facilities, allows for a transparent, free-flow move towards a borderless-classroom style of education which so far in this country has only been practised in the private sector. Not only has it got up-to-date computer technology, which the teachers had to be re-trained to use, but an auditorium-style multipurpose school hall, a science laboratory, sewing machines, woodwork equipment and much more for the hands-on learning that primary-school kids so enjoy.

Built around the original humble school building, that is now the entrance to the new school, it has an embracing welcome, thanks to an open, curved drop-off zone. The school is sustainably designed with off-grid solar and wind generation, and rooftop gardens. Rain run-off feeds a reservoir under the school, which helps irrigate the vegetable garden and orchard from which food supplies are harvested for the school feeding scheme. The children can learn all about the sustainable features in an interactive discovery centre in the heart of the school, and beautiful details from sun-shielding vines planted over the pick-up stop to porthole windows on colourful walls make the building a truly happy space. The architect’s understanding of children and their curiosity and need to run around and jump about, provides a great case of design helping the learning process, because when the kids are required to sit down they feel less restless and restricted.

The Bosjes Trust was born from the Bosjes Farm, a small estate with wedding facilities, a restaurant, accommodation and beautifully landscaped gardens. The owners, who like to remain quietly in the background, have recognised that by commissioning iconic world-class architecture they can create a destination that will uplift a whole community. Many will know their first commission, the architectural masterpiece and award-winning Bosjes wedding chapel designed by Steyn Studio. And the family have had a history of building schools – the first one in the 1920s and then a bigger one in the 1950s. Their kind and simple brief to the architects for this school should be the basis for all school developments: “Make it the best you can. We want these kids to have every opportunity.”

The design and build of Botha’s Halte may have been privately funded but it is government run and now the Western Cape Government is studying it as a possible way to fund and develop other schools in a similar way. Without a doubt, it is a model that deserves looking at for helping alleviate the current issues in the educational system, especially in rural areas. And this type of school is certainly one that all South African children deserve. By designing one outstanding building – one beautiful thing – this enterprise not only benefits the children who attend the school but it is also uplifting the extended community who shares the facilities for extra lessons, holiday clubs and sports. A bright future has been created for all in the Breede Valley.

Bosjes is 90 minutes from Cape Town.

100 Beautiful Things is presented by the V&A Waterfront in celebration of South Africa’s creativity, compassion, ingenuity and resilience.  Every week we will be showcasing five amazingly beautiful creative things that make us proud. It is curated in partnership with Platform Creative. 

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