The Floating Boat School

Providing a transformative impact upon education and communities in the flood prone regions of Bangladesh, the Shidhulai Swarnivar Sangstha (founded by Mohammed Rezwan) designs and constructs solar powered Floating School Boats.
Lavina Bulchandani
Lavina Bulchandani
December 22 / 2016

The architecture of our buildings, the architecture of our cities, all of it focuses around the people who need them and use them. If a building becomes isolated and people are unable to reach it, to use it, its primary purpose is lost; and so thought architect Mohammed Rezwan, “If children cannot come to school, then the school should come to them,” when children of Bangladesh were robbed of their opportunity to visit the places of education.

In 2002, the architect decided to set up Floating School Boats that would travel to children in the flood prone regions of Bangladesh, urging us to rethink our vision of what architecture can and should be. Flooding for most part of the year, roads to schools are rendered inaccessible during the monsoons.

What started as a single boat with an old computer and only US$500 , has now amounted to 1,810 children and 22 boats. The architect realised his vision with his organisation Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha that builds and runs these traditional boats. Collecting students from different riverside villages, the School Boat finally docks at the last destination where on-board classes are arranged.

Solar power enables the use of internet for the students to remain up to date with the evolving technologies. The two-tier structure houses a classroom and library in the lower deck. The upper-deck provides the training space for the community while also being used as an informal gathering space for the school. The wall inclines to the exterior. It holds the large curved roof which overhangs towards the front to shelter the sitting area from sun and rain. The large sail-cloth is used for multimedia projection of educational programs. Working with pre-industrial technology, the architecture of these School Boats utilises indigenous methods and traditional building techniques that are based on the wooden boat-building heritage of north-western Bangladesh. It clubs this with environment friendly materials including wood and bamboo. A flat-bottomed hull to travel in shallow water and a multi-layered roof to withstand heavy monsoon rain protects this water vessel. Natural light and ventilation is made available through the side windows.

The organisation also runs a fleet of designed boats acting as libraries and adult education centres where parents receive skill development trainings.