I met a UN contractor through this blog. We agreed to meet in Kigali, Rwanda, and he would going me some of UN’s work with preschools and primary schools (including playground equipment) in the rural areas around Kigali.
On Sunday (20 Jun 2015), we crossed the border from Uganda into Rwanda. The next morning, Nathan Gauthier–our guide–took us on a visit to a modern preschool that is currently nearing completion and an established large preschool/primary school with damaged outdoor playground equipment.
The preschool was constructed in a circular shape and included classrooms, composting toilets, kitchen, multi-purpose area, and offices. It was a nice design, but maybe a little too sophisticated for small children (particularly the toilets). The playground equipment included a small swing set, a slide (designed to look like a bull), a teeter totter, and a simple merry-go-round.
The swing set was like many that we had seen in Uganda, except the pendulum portion was simplified (pipe over a small metal bar). I think the swing sets would be better if they spread the legs at each end of the frame. The swing seats have only one connection to the chain on each side and they consist of a metal frame with a wooden insert. I really don’t like this design of the seat. I would prefer no metal in the seat and a double connection to the chain at each end. Nathan indicated that the connection attaching the chain to the seat frame is prone to failure. The swing set was made at the fabricator and then transported to the site.
The teeter totter (seesaw) was made of wood. The design was okay, but Nathan pointed out that the handles need to be more more securely attached and the center pivot was too low to the ground. Thus there wasn’t much rocking action. Nathan felt that the pivot machinery was over designed.
At the established preschool/primary school we checked out their playground equipment. The two swing sets that were in place were similar to the one we had seen at the preschool. The swings were being heavy used and both bucked (one of the legs came out of the ground as the children were swinging). This indicates that the legs were not securely buried in the ground. In fact, 2 of the legs had the scrap metal at the bottom of legs out of the ground. The scrap is welded to the pipe to anchor the pipe to the concrete and should be underground. The exposed scrap represents a danger to bare-foot children. The bucking motion severely torques the welds on the horizontal pipe.
The teeter totter (seesaw) was an even greater problem. The pivot was too high off the ground. This made it too hard to get on and off. If a child got off at one end, the other end would come crashing to the ground. This is a danger to both the children on the teeter totter and any child that might be under the crashing end. The seats on the teeter totter were made like metal chairs, a design I don’t particularly like. At one end of the teeter totter the handles were broken off.
After this visit we headed back to Uganda and ultimately to Utah, USA.