About 20 years back, anyone in my community who could afford an iron sheet roof was considered to be financially well off. Everyone aspired to have a roof of iron sheets.
These were the times when the weather conditions were not as harsh as they have been the past few years.
The other people who could not afford iron sheet roofs used grass, reeds or makuti (made from palm leaves) to thatch their roofs.
Extreme weather conditions have made these natural roofing materials scarce, leaving everyone with no choice but to buy iron sheets.
The same weather conditions are making living under an iron sheet roof unbearable.
White roofs reflect the sun’s heat and, early this year, we put up another structure here at the Permaculture Teaching Centre, which we call the EDIBLE CLASSROOM, and painted the roof white. We then bought a thermometer so that we could compare the temperature in the edible classroom and the office.
We collected data for two weeks continuously and we saw that it was always cooler in the edible classroom by six degrees Celsius.
This really amazed me and the other staff.
When there is no activity for the Mothers of the Forest going on in the edible classroom, that is where we prefer to sit and work.
30° C is normal for us and we can work without sweating much, but it has been extremely hot lately. The highest we’ve recorded in the office is 38°C, which is very hot even for those of us who are used to the heat.
It was slightly cooler in the edible classroom and we only did one coat of white paint on the iron sheets. I am sure that it would have been much cooler if it had been double coated.
I feel that having white roofs is the way to go.
It is difficult to concentrate when you feel like you are being baked and I speak on behalf of the students and teachers who spend 50% of their day in class, not just at the PTC but at schools too.
I feel that with white roofs, the students will be able to concentrate better leading to higher grades. The teachers too will be able to give the students quality education.
There is also the issue of body odour.
Bathing soap is a luxury to some people in my community. As much as it is a necessity, not everyone can afford it.
Using white roofs may not be the ultimate solution to body odour but it sure will reduce perspiration, leading to less unpleasant smell in classrooms.
Some girls even miss school when they are on their periods because they use pads.
The combination of sweat and blood makes their body odour very very unpleasant and they get bullied and called names, which makes them hate going to school during that time of the month.
I believe that the white roofs will improve the lives of many people, especially in schools.
There is going to be better class attendance not only for the students but for the teachers too who run away from the heat in the classroom and sit under trees in the school compound.
There will definitely be an improvement in the school’s academic performance.
Eva Jefa and the Kenya Team