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Ciku Kimeria
Writer, Adventurer, Development Consultant, Travelblogger
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piqer: Ciku Kimeria
Sunday, 11 March 2018

The Demise Of The Makoko Floating School In Nigeria

Years back the Makoko Floating School was being lauded everywhere by mainstream media. It was an architectural feat that made for a great story—one that anyone, especially us Africans tired of stories where we are always the beneficiaries of Western benevolence, but never masters of our own destiny, really love. Kunle Adeyemi, a Nigerian architect, was awarded a prestigious prize at the Venice Biennale for designing a school in Makoko—one of the largest slums in Lagos, Nigeria. This school that floated on water was meant to serve poor children whose neighborhood the government wanted to demolish. 

The issue was that while Kunle was receiving prizes internationally and while his profile was rising on the global platform, the school was never used due to many reasons. These include lack of government support, practical design issues such as a lack of toilets and blackboards once it was opened, a crumbling structure with no maintenance from a community that was poor, and various other challenges. 

The project was a chimera composed of flawed and superficial ideas and curated by deflection, obfuscation, and overestimation. The people who wanted the illusion to be real allowed it to spin unchecked—until a precipitous void made it impossible to believe. 

Three years after the school was started, it collapsed in a storm. What followed was a PR campaign for involved parties to save face. 

“It was supposed to be innovation, but now we’re being told it was experimentation,” Papa Omotayo, a Lagos-based architect and friend of Adeyemi’s, said of the floating school a few days after the collapse. “The issue is, can you experiment in a community like [Makoko] knowing things like budget, like social issues, and more importantly knowing that children are involved?”

The issue the article addresses is part of a larger issue in the development space—where charismatic founders usually get carte-blanche to run elaborate projects with little scrutiny from those who should be more discerning. 

The Demise Of The Makoko Floating School In Nigeria
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