The Marvel Of Makoko’s Floating School
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MAKOKO, the coastal community in Lagos, hosted dignitaries and members of the international community last week, as a school, which was constructed on the Lagos Lagoon with an amazing input of Dutch marine architecture, was formally opened to the public.
The people of Makoko were delighted at the opening of the two-storey building, which could host about 400 people at a time without fear of sinking, that they entertained visitors with the performances of two traditional masquerades, who floated on water to the utmost amazement of guests.
The masquerades called Sangbeto floated on mats through indescribable traditional means and “technology”. They were brought in a canoe amidst heavy drums, percussion and singing. The people beat gongs and gyrated as cars sped off across the 11km long Third Mainland Bridge overlooking the Makoko community.
They were oblivious of the mystery and magic being unfolded by this traditional fishing community on the water of the Lagos Lagoon. But the audience watched with keen interest as the handlers of the masquerades placed two mats on the lagoon.
Then a Sangbeto masquerade, adorned with what appeared to be shredded and neatly woven nylon, gingerly lowered itself on the floating mats. The masquerade stayed afloat unlike the floating school that was being commissioned, which was built on a stilt.
Construction of the school began in October 2012 and it was completed February 2013 with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Heinrich Boell Foundation from Germany. The event also witnessed a spectacular boat regatta and water racing competition, while the performances showcased the untapped tourist and cultural potential of the water community.
Dignitaries, including Country Director of UNDP, Ms. Ade Mamonyane Lekoetje; Mrs. Monika Umunna of Heinrich Boell Foundation; Programme Officer, UNDP, Mr. Muyiwa Odele; Programme Officer of the United Nations Habitat, Paul Okunlola; Mr. Maximus of Climate Change Unit, Lagos State Ministry of Environment; were stunned at the incredible performances.
UNDP’s Country Director, Lekoetje said the agency was delighted to contribute to a project that will help the people transform Makoko and put smiles on the faces of young children, whose future depend on quality education and a decent environment. She added that the project would serve as a model to transform other coastal communities in the West African sub region.
The floating school at Makoko was designed and constructed with locally sourced materials by Mr. Kunle Adeyemi, a Nigerian architect trained in Holland as well as the University of Lagos. He was assisted by Berend Strijland and a visiting Naval architect, Erik Wassen.
Adeyemi told The Guardian that he was delighted with the outcome of the event, noting that the huge crowd, which thronged the floating school and its ability to withstand the weight like the rock of Gibraltar, was a way of testing their marine architectural ingenuity.
Many Europeans sailed in droves from Victoria Island and Ikoyi to Makoko to watch the spectacular wonder school, which has a solid foundation of plastic drums that could withstand any storm and sea level rise resulting from global warming and climate change.
Apart from finding use for old plastics, the ecologically motivated house also uses solar energy, which will make the children of Makoko have electricity anytime they wish.
The Goethe Institute organised a film show and photography exhibition tagged The Silent Majority, which was anchored by Paschal Ott of the French School and Jahman Anikulapo, former Editor of The Guardian on Sunday.
Baale (Head) of the Makoko fishing community, Emmanuel Shemede, and Makoko community leader, Chief Francais Agoyon, who received the dignitaries at the shoreline, said they were happy the international community came to develop the community. They promised to make good use of the floating school.
Mr. Paul Okunlola, architect and Programme Officer of UNHabitat, said the initiative was part of fulfilling the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, as well as part of steps to upgrade slums across the world.