After the original Jamal Abdul Nasser School in Gaza was destroyed in 2014 during the conflict with Israel, the foundation tasked with rebuilding the school put stakeholder management front and center. “We let the community, and particularly the children who will use it every day, influence what we built,” Al Fakhoora director Farooq Burney told Fast Company. Al Fakhoora, a program within the Education Above All Foundation, partnered with the United Nations Development Program and the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) to open the school.
—Farooq Burney, Al Fakhoora director, to Fast Company
The project was completed—and the new Jamal Abdul Nasser School opened—in February. But before the project team designed even one room, it held workshops to gather feedback from students and other community members to determine what they wanted from the new school. That input helped shape several final design aspects. For example, students wanted to avoid the open air because of their fear of airstrikes.
“The children in Gaza are terrified of the sound of airplanes and drones—for them, this means danger and attack,” Mr. Burney explained. So designers on the project team made sure that all classrooms could be reached without going outside. Other input resulted in shatterproof windows and buildings that can be used as an emergency shelter.
At the same time, the team had to comply with the UNICEF framework for creating a “child-friendly” school that's inclusive, safe, stimulating and an effective learning space. To meet those requirements, plans for the new school also featured flexible learning spaces, an extensive library, a sports facility and an on-site mental health facility.
UNICEF special representative Genevieve Boutin noted in a news release that projects like these “have contributed to a more positive learning environment, giving us all hope in a better future.”