Learning How to Do (and Teach) a Cost Analysis



On 8 November 2012 we discussed some critical questions related to our relationship with the working team. Jack asked the working team if they had understood all of the work the WPI has done over the past few weeks.  Kholeka said that she was having trouble understanding the calculations we have done for the cost analysis and how we came up with the numbers. We decided to work with the working team to teach them how we came up with the cost analysis.

Cast of Characters

The Langrug working team, the WPI Team, Baraka and Jack


Wendy House on 8 November 2012


By talking with Jack and the working team, we recognised the need for us to work more closely with the working team on creating the cost analysis and doing the calculations associated with it. The working team was confused about how we came up with our final cost estimate. We began by writing on the white board the steps needed to be taken to create a cost analysis, starting with designing out the facility and figuring out the components of the design. Amanda was frustrated because she feels like she understands this part of the cost analysis process, but was confused on how to come up with the actual numbers. We then moved onto going through our cost analysis on the white board by making a table of materials, quantity, cost per item and total cost of item. We went through calculating the floor costs, including everything from materials to labour. This was a great example to show the cost analysis of one elements of the MPC.  Kholeka used one of our calculators to do the calculations for some of the columns, which helped us to get a better understanding of her experience with a calculator.

The last part of the cost analysis included adding a fifteen percent error to the determined cost. Explaining how to calculate this number was somewhat difficult because we were unsure of how much they new about percentages. We did not know exactly how to explain the concept to them. We tried multiple approaches, but were afraid that our attempts may be condescending or too difficult to understand. Eventually, Jack stepped in an explained the concept in Xhosa. This was really helpful because the language barrier between the WPI and the working team made explaining complicated mathematics difficult.


This exercise was extremely valuable for our project. On our meeting with Dawie on Tuesday he explained that the process rather than the products in settlement upgrading are often more important. We are all so focused on implementing the MPC that we often forget that the working team might not be aware of how we work. Today really helped up to step back a little and remember that much of our project aims to help the working team learn how to do these processes themselves. These sorts of exercises will help make the project sustainable and meaningful.

It was interesting how the working team members showed assertiveness during the lesson and spoke up when they wanted us to teach them in a different way. We would have never of went through this cost analysis with them if Jack hadn’t asked them what they hadn’t understood, so we were glad that they became more comfortable with us and we hope this continues throughout the remainder of our time here.

The exercise also revealed differences among the WPI team members in how they wanted to teach the working team. We were put on the spot without opportunity to prepare, which may have been helpful, but it was interesting to see how our methods of teaching and explaining our work varied among us. We were put in an awkward place as we attempted to make sure the working group understood the arithmetic without being condescending. It was eye-opening to learn about these educational barriers among these smart, driven community members.