Thunga Primary School

Our second project is our crowning achievement. Four new classrooms across two different buildings, four new latrines, and extensive landscaping make this our largest project to date!


Thunga Primary was a huge success for 5 major reasons

1. We were able to provide four large, well ventilated classrooms that will provide 280 students per year with a space to learn. We also provided the entire school with school supplies for the upcoming year


2. We built the classrooms with 100% local labor using local materials whenever possible


3. We implemented simple construction methods that local laborers can easily replicate in the future


4. Our work benefited female students in particular by building four new female latrines with doors for privacy and supplying Thunga and Thyolo primary school with emergency female period kits


5. We addressed the sloped building site and heavy rains by doing extensive landscaping that directs rainwater away from the buildings while also creating exterior spaces for students

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The final Product

Our original goal was 3 classrooms but we surprised ourselves and were able to fully construct 4 classrooms, 4 latrines, do extensive landscaping, repair an existing building, provide school supplies for the upcoming year, and provide female students with an emergency period kit. It took three full months to complete everything.

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The Design


The Classrooms

Four classrooms were built across two buildings. The two structures are dramatically different, with the first being closely aligned with a standard government classroom and the second being a stepped split roof design. The second building's design works with the slope of the landscape and the roof directs water away from the front of the building. The placement of the two buildings creates a courtyard for students to safety play while not in class. 

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The slope of the site was the main driver behind the design of the structures

The unique design of each structure was heavily influenced by the slope of the land and the heavy rainfall the region receives. Instead of fighting the slope we decided to have the buildings work within the natural landscape and mimic the slope with classrooms that step down with the grade of the land. 


Using local materials and labor

Using local labor and materials is an important part of the design. Beyond the locally created metal windows and doors, the major building material is soil stabilized bricks, a modern version of clay fired bricks that are sustainable, fairly inexpensive, and cooler than concrete masonry units. Each block was made on site from earth that was excavated during construction

Focus on Girls

Simple things like latrines shouldn't bar girls from getting an education

Male students outnumber female students at Thunga Primary school. As students get older less and less girls continue their education, sometimes for the simple reason of not having an adequate bathroom. We didn't want this to continue at Thunga which is why we built four new female only latrines. Unlike all the other bathrooms at the school, these latrines have doors on each stall. This very simple addition allows female students privacy, something that can make the difference between a graduate and a drop out. 

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Emergency period kits

On my first trip to Malawi, I went to a school where on that day all the students were taken out of class so they could clean up after a female student. The girl had been sent home after clearly being embarrassed and probably traumatized by the incident. After hearing this my heart broke for this girl who will probably never return to school because of how humiliating it was. 

I decided that I would do something about this which is why Design Cause made a point of providing Thunga and Thyolo Primary Schools with an emergency period kit for female students. 

Employing female labor

From day 1 Design Cause employed female workers. Every day 5-10 ladies would carry gallons of water to the site so the builders were able to continue their work. They played an absolutely vital role in the building process and they came to work every day with a smile. We paid them a higher than average daily wage and gave each and everyone one of them a bonus at the end of the project (something we didn't do for all the male workers). It was a joy to employ these ladies and to see the impact it had on the community and their immediate families.


The Building Process

We broke ground on July 22nd, 2018. Up to 40 people were working on site at any given time and in total, we had close to 100 local Malawians dedicating their time and energy to this project. We also had volunteer days when members of the local community came to the site and assisted with bringing water and carrying bricks to the builders. The community of Thunga and the surrounding villages built these classrooms and latrines.


Kelsey, the founder and executive director of Design Cause was on site every day to direct the project, handle payment, purchase materials, document the process, and handle any disputes (and there were many). She was assisted by the foreman, a local head builder, and a translator to help her communicate with the entire team.

Long Term Goals

The long term goal for this project is simple. Provide more students with an effective place to learn for decades. We would like to see more students attending, graduating from, and moving on to secondary schools out of these new classrooms. We would also like to see Thunga and the surrounding villages be proud of their schools and place more cultural weight on education for their sons and daughter.


As with all our projects, our hope is to see the new design features that were implemented in these classrooms be replicated on school building projects in the future without our input.


Malawi is one of the poorest countries on earth. Education and infrastructure go hand in hand as solutions to relieving the stunning obstacles facing individuals, and particularly children, in living a happy and healthy life.