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francis ngwira


a school that heals: design for children with special needs

This dissertation proposes school & care facility to provide a foothold for children who have been exposed to traumatic life experiences, primarily those with refugee experiences. Traumatic experiences affect children’s mental health as they grow, which affects their ability to learn and become productive members of the society.

When a stressful experience activates a child’s stress-response system, it immediately cuts off the neural connections to the prefrontal cortex because it wants the body to react faster for survival. As a result, children in that anxious state are less able to engage in problem-solving, rational thought, focused attention, self-regulation of their emotions or behaviour and less able to verbalize their experience. All these are essential to learning and brain development. By tapping into design approaches of healthy facilities whose goal is to alleviate stress among the users, A school that heals explores the same design attitudes in a learning environment. Attributes such as sense of control, social support, positive distractions, wellness factors, and sense of coherence have improved stress levels in healthy care designs, hence their exploration in a learning environment that should also heal the user/s.

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