Stave House in the Sahara

At Stave House in the Sahara we aim to facilitate the implementation of music education in primary schools in the Saharawi refugee camps (SW Algeria). The Saharawi refugees, largely forgotten by the international community, have survived for over 40 years in one of the harshest parts of the Sahara desert since they were forced out of their homeland Western Sahara in 1975. Despite their efforts to sustain cultural & educational projects, their ongoing situation of conflict & the difficult living conditions have put a strain on traditional channels of cultural transmission. Stave House in the Sahara looks for ways of combining traditional oral teaching methods with the use of the Stave House methodology & teaching materials.

We are so excited to report that the Stave House in the Sahara pilot project has been a huge success. As it happens with all first-time projects, when our project leader Violeta Ruano took off last February we were unsure about how much we could achieve in just 2 months. Fortunately, as soon as she landed the project received incredible support from the local Saharawi authorities, especially the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Education.

Violeta got quickly set up in the primary school of Lal Andala, in Boujdour camp, and started working with two groups of 15 children each in collaboration with three local Saharawi teachers: Gejmula Mohamed, Fatimetu Melainin, and Tekwen Mohamed. They have now become our first Stave House in the Sahara trainees!

They dedicated the first two weeks of teaching to introduce the children to the Stave House world using a combination of English and Hassaniya (local Arabic). The children learned about the music house, its animal-inhabitants, their names, and started counting 1-10 in English. They were delighted to be using their imagination so much in the classroom! (Click the image below to watch video).

Between the third and sixth weeks of teaching, the teachers started introducing some music reading and performance in the classroom. They also worked on musical concepts such as pitch and intensity through games and creative activities. It was incredible to see the children identifying and reading notes (& letters) in English from their boards, and then playing them on chime bars after just one month of contact with Stave House! WATCH VIDEOS.

On week 7 the group took an important step in their programme by introducing the rhythm family and the concept of length in music. The children added many useful words to their English vocabulary while creating and dancing to different rhythmic patterns. They also had a lot of fun exploring all the new instruments of our classroom percussion sets.

The 8-week course ended with a fantastic end-of-term party attended by all the students, teachers, and the director of the school. The children listened and danced to a selection of Stave House songs while enjoying a super tasty cake done especially for the occasion. In her good-bye speech, the director reaffirmed her support for the project, as well as the need to establish more good-quality and ongoing educational projects in the camps.

Keep updated by visiting our blog, Stave House in the Sahara.