The first Wise Owl School was started way back in the early 90s by husband and wife team Mr T. and Mrs R. Makirimani – both dedicated and passionate teachers. The first school was an early learning centre in Marondera, followed by a primary school in 2009 and then with the opening of their secondary school they rebranded to become The Wise Owl Group of Schools, offering world-class education from preschool to school leavers’ level.
Three years ago Wise Owl established an ECD centre in Harare, now situated at 37 Lomagundi Road in the Emerald Hill area. The group of schools has continued grow with the opening of the brand new Wise Owl Primary School earlier this year in the Westgate Adylinn area of Harare. The new primary school currently offers classes from Grade 0 up to Grade 6 with Grade 7 classes to follow soon. At the moment there are around 200 pupils enrolled with a staff compliment of 18 teachers.
As the suburbs of Harare continue to spread out from the City centre the Westgate area is becoming more densely populated and there’s an increasing need for schools and other social facilities. The new school is close to the Westgate roundabout so it’s a convenient location for parents and kids from the surrounding neighbourhoods as far away as Marlborough, Bluff Hill, Greencroft – and beyond.
The school is built on a property of just over 4 hectares so there’s plenty of room for sporting facilities and for the possibility of further expansion. There are plans for a swimming pool, a tennis court and other sports fields. Mrs Makirimani hinted that Phase 2 of the development might include two or three storey structures for more classrooms as well as boarding facilities. The new classrooms could be for dedicated subjects – a music room, a science lab, a library, a computer learning centre and similar educational and recreational facilities.
The development is the result of a successful collaboration led by Principal Agents Troika Design Workshop alongside the proprietors of Wise Owl. The classroom blocks are built of low maintenance facebrick – plastered and painted inside – with pitched Chromadek roofs that slope down to incorporate a roof over the covered central walkways. Doors and windows are made up of glass set in black aluminium frames which are neat, durable and low maintenance.
The school buildings are designed on a scale similar to the other residential properties surrounding it, so the structures contribute to the neighbourhood aesthetic, rather than overwhelming it.The layout is basically made up of three blocks, each with four classrooms, a central courtyard and ablution facilities for pupils and staff. The courtyards are designed as open spaces for play and to allow light and air into the classrooms. At present the middle courtyard is used for school assemblies. The courtyards are surrounded by wide covered verandahs which help keep the classrooms cool in summer and the roof provides shelter for pupils and staff during the rainy season.
Although the overall design is very contemporary the courtyards and covered walkway buildings with cloistered galleries around central quads. The size of the classrooms was determined in part by the number of pupils expected to be in each class. The classroom buildings have been kept all on one level with the minimum amount of steps and level changes which can be tricky for younger toddlers to negotiate safely. On the outward facing walls the windows are set quite high up – firstly so the children can’t see out and get distracted from their lessons by what’s happening outside, and secondly to create more usable wall space for notice boards, posters and wall charts. The floors of the classrooms are clad in pale ceramic tiles which make the rooms feel more light and airy, and they’re also easy to clean and maintain. The rooms all have plaster board ceilings set below the roof trusses which provides some insulation to keep the rooms cooler in summer and also helps to dull the sound of the rain on the Chromadek roofs.
Transition spaces are contained by breeze block walls which screen off small sections of the mostly open outdoor passageways. The breezeblocks add texture and interest to an otherwise fairly restrained palette of materials. Incidentally, when the sun shines through them they also create great patterns of light and shadow! The breezeblocks are set in plastered cement frames which have been painted in bright colours – pillar-box red, emerald green and deep azure blue. The colours are fun, fresh and Joyful. The judicious use of bright pops of colours on the exteriors of buildings is one of Troika’s design signatures.
The use of colour has been incorporated into the interiors too, in the multi-coloured desks and chairs and the pin boards, wall charts and posters. There’s obviously a bit of colour psychology going on, keeping the children stimulated and cheerful.
To contact Wise Owl Primary School:
Call school admin on 0717013048 or 0717128678
To contact Troika Design Workshop:
Call: +263 8677 008 490
text by Michael Nott
photos by Structure and Design