Engineers Without Borders completes school in Africa

November 3, 2017
NAVA School
NAVA School
NAVA School
NAVA School
NAVA School

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – After nearly six years of planning, designing and constructing, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders has completed its school in Africa. The NAVA Primary School, located in rural Ghana, officially opened its doors on Aug. 25, welcoming more than 300 children from local communities.

Three UW-Platteville students, along with Dr. Sam Owusu-Ababio, the university’s Engineers Without Borders advisor and a professor in the civil and environmental engineering department, attended the opening ceremony and were able to witness, first hand, the impact the school had on the community.

“We anticipate that the NAVA Primary School will provide an open and welcoming gathering place for all who want to have access to basic primary education, and now students can have the opportunity to do things like never before,” Owusu-Ababio said at the opening ceremony. “Having a sparkling new set of buildings improves not only the school’s physical environment, but also its learning culture and academic achievement.”

The NAVA Primary School features two classrooms designated for kindergarten students and six classrooms designated for first through sixth graders. In addition, the building includes a library, office, kitchen and dining area. The school is fully staffed with educators, who were also introduced to the library book check-out system at the school’s opening ceremony. In all, the project cost more than $125,000 – not including travel – and all funds were raised by the students through grant writing and various fundraising activities throughout the community. Desks, chairs and library books for the school were donated from local businesses, and the roofs of the buildings were selected to match the UW-Platteville blue and orange.

“We cannot express how much help this school has brought to our children of school-going ages,” Donatas Mawuli Kpedudo, president of Nsumia, Ghana’s Royal Youth Foundation, said in a letter to UW-Platteville’s Engineers Without Borders. “The school has lifted the image of the Nsumia community very high.”

Since 2008, UW-Platteville’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders has completed numerous additional small-scale infrastructure projects in the area. This includes a drainage channel, driveway, foundation stabilization and pedestrian bridge.

Members of UW-Platteville’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders are already planning another construction project, this time building a school in a different district in Ghana. Owusu-Ababio said that he expects a small group of UW-Platteville students to travel to Ghana over winter break to assess the area, and another group to travel over summer vacation to begin work on the foundation. In addition, Owusu-Ababio is looking to create partnerships with other schools in Ghana in order to get additional members of the community involved in the projects.

As a native of Ghana himself, Owusu-Ababio said he enjoys working with these underprivileged, but determined communities. Serving as UW-Platteville’s chapter advisor since the program’s inception in 2007, he has helped the program become the success it is today.

“I remember being in secondary school and meeting those involved in the Peace Corps,” Owusu-Ababio said. “Those Peace Corps instructors gave me an opportunity and through that opportunity, I was able to get where I am today. If I have the opportunity to go and give back to a group in a similar situation, then I enjoy doing it. You never know who the next world changer may be.”

Although only a small amount of students involved in UW-Platteville’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders travel abroad for each trip, the other participants are still actively involved throughout the project. With numerous student-led committees ranging from grant writing to fundraising, each student involved in Engineers Without Borders can have a major role in the funding, design or construction of each project.

For those lucky enough to travel abroad to help with design and construction, Owusu-Ababio said that it’s an experience they’ll never forget.

“We anticipate that the NAVA Primary School will provide an open and welcoming gathering place for all who want to have access to basic primary education, and now students can have the opportunity to do things like never before.”

                  –Dr. Sam Owusu-Ababio

“The students come back after a trip, and they’re not the same,” he said. “They’re able to see the transition from plans on paper to the building process to the impact it makes on the community. They’re able to interact with people with diverse backgrounds which is something you can’t always get in a classroom.”

Quin Rogers, Sam Crawford and Nick Costello are three UW-Platteville seniors who have not only been involved in Engineers Without Borders since their freshman year, but who have also traveled to Ghana for the project. Although Crawford and Costello worked as project leads and completed some of the major construction during their trips, Rogers was one of the three students who attended the opening ceremony in August.

“There was obviously a major sentimental value that came with this project,” said Rogers, who also serves on the chapter’s grant writing committee. “For years we’ve been working on this huge project, and to see the impact the finished product makes on the community and its children was amazing.”

In all, NAVA Primary School consists of four separate buildings and took more than six years to complete; a large task for a smaller Engineers Without Borders student chapter.

“This project is one of the largest, if not the largest project any student chapter of Engineers Without Borders has taken on,” Crawford said. “Now that it’s completed, it’s amazing to realize that we made this happen. It hits home.”

Not only has Engineers Without Borders impacted students in Ghana and all over the world, but it has influenced the students in Platteville as well. From networking with professionals to giving hands-on experience, the organization offers opportunities that are unique from traditional classroom work.

“Being a part of Engineers Without Borders has been incredible,” Costello said. “We’ve been able to meet and work with mentors in our professions and work on a project that is going to make a difference. It has reaffirmed my desire to go into a civil engineering profession, maybe even the Peace Corps.”

The Engineers Without Borders chapter at UW-Platteville, which consists of approximately 30 actively engaged members, is one of more than 300 chapters nationwide working in 46 countries. Despite its title, Engineers Without Borders is an organization that any student can get involved with, and UW-Platteville’s chapter is consistently looking for participants from different backgrounds. For more information on the Engineers Without Borders chapter at UW-Platteville, visit

Written by: Amanda Bertolozzi, Writer/Editor, Communications, 608-342-7121,


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