Situated in the arid and rural terrain of the Nkhotakota district in Malawi, the parish of Benga is established as a focal point for communal and spiritual enlightenment. Its inhabitants, members of the Missionary Community of Saint Paul the Apostle, spearhead a mission to not only bring the presence of Christianity to the local populace, but to also plant the seed for an enriched way of life. The goal is to create a platform in which principles like higher learning, gender equality, health safety, and the means to pursue fulfillment are universal by nature and accessible to all. In a context where majority of the local communities are illiterate, and live well below the poverty line, such ambitions are ever so paramount. Education has the opportunity to be a catalyst for positive social change, where the development of a sustainable lifestyle is integral to the pursuit of knowledge. One should never have to choose between scholarship, or sustenance. As such, a foundation aimed at challenging traditional conventions by merging the two disciplines can become a beacon of hope that extends beyond all borders and cultures.
Inspired by the iconic tree of knowledge and African agricultural villages, the natural is combined with the vernacular as an approach to nourish both the body and mind. Much like the gathering spaces underneath the great ancestral giant, a series of ringed canopies are formed to provide shade and shelter. At their cores, there stem open courtyards that are utilized as spaces for seasonal farming, and social gatherings. It is here that the students learn about the necessary skills involved in maintaining a community, where practical knowledge serves in conjunction with the theoretical. Since resources are scare, emphasis is placed upon the recycling and conservation of matter through processes such as crop rotation, water retention, and solar energy collection. These mechanisms are integrated throughout the design, and made visible for everyone to analyze, and understand. Over time, the mastering of these techniques will allow each pupil to have a stronger grasp of the ecosystem, and his/her roles within it.