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UNICEF Child Friendly Schools: Learning Along Borders for Living Across Boundaries


Developing countries are confronted with major political, economic and socio-cultural challenges that are threatening social institutions including the family, community structures and other essential social services. The UNICEF Child Friendly Schools program focuses on building community-oriented, child-friendly schools, to promote quality education and empowering services in these border communities.

School Locations

Ganta, Liberia

Design Fellow: Joshua Palmer

The multiple threats to social, community and family systems include: deepening poverty, political instability and conflict situations. Strategic education interventions can contribute to helping countries address the development challenge posed by threats like civil conflict.

In Most conflict affected countries the youth population is critical to rebuilding the future. It is the young men and women, who have taken up arms in the past and who are likely to do so again in the future, that need to be given special attention in any effort to rebuild and to prevent future conflict. These young people have often been involved in conflict because they have been manipulated or coerced by others, but also because they have been frustrated or alienated by what they see as unfair or unjust systems in their own society. It is quite remarkable that the most frequent request made by demobilized children and youth combatants after a conflict is the desire for an education. In some cases prolonged conflict has meant that these young people have missed out on years of education and special provision must be made to deal with their situation.

This is particularly the case in countries like Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone that have been ravaged by years of civil conflict. In all these countries the issue of an appropriate provision for the the education and training of these young people has to be given the highest priority. This is an essential part of the process of creating a secure environment for recovery and development. If the continue to trawl the streets of their capital cities, unemployed, under-educated and untrained, these youths represent both the greatest threat to their own societies and the greatest unfulfilled potential for change.

At the same time, many countries like Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone share common borders as well as common tragedies with past catastrophes and potentially threatening surges of conflict and violence within their borders and across their boundaries. The post conflict areas and regions, mostly rural find themselves left with a badly affected education system.

It is against this background and to meet the challenges mentioned above that UNICEF has developed the Child Friendly Schools and the Learning Along Borders for Living Across Boundaries initiatives.

Strategic Objectives:

-to improve the resilience of these border communities, making them more effective buffers against the flow of conflict across national boundaries. In this regard, interventions will build on much of the positive informal links that already exist between these border communities across national boundaries. This will strengthen economic, cultural and social ties and exchanges, as well as promote new patterns of solidarity and interdependence.

-to help stimulate and accelerate the development process in border communities by promoting more innovative development pathways. In this regard interventions are based on two key premises. One is that border communities should not have to wait for development to "trickle down" from capital cities and big towns. Rather they should be part of a more decentralized approach to development that focuses on appropriate local progress as part of overall national development. Second, border communities need not lag behind current trends regarding more sustainable development. In fact, they can be at the forefront of implementing alternative and more sustainable development pathways in terms of patters of energy production and consumption, conservation of natural resources and protection of the environment.

The intervention is to be clustered around the use of community-oriented, child-friendly schools, to promote quality education and empowering services in these border communities. Empowering services will include basic amenities that they often lack, like water, sanitation and energy (e.g. wind/solar power, biomass) as well as new forms of income generating activities based on careful analysis of local and external realities. In this way, schools can be a catalyst for innovative localized progress that does not require these remote border communities to wait for development to "trickle down".

Precedent Studies
compiled by Iheanyi Ngumez

  • The International School

    The International School is a meeting place for 1800 pupils with 80 different nationalities, all with their own language and culture. All of them move very often, this is why the school schedule of all the International Schools around the world is exactly the same.

  • Trias VMBO

    This school for Preparatory Vocational Education imitates the real world of workrooms of all types of jobs, including an office environment, spaces for care, catering and workshops for engineering and fashion design. All of them have their own ‘shop’ located at the ‘village square’ at the heart of the school.

  • Robin Hood Foundation Libraries

    A program to retrofit libraries in existing schools in New York City. The program focused on creating creative, inviting spaces for students that went beyond traditional models of library interaction.

  • School Without Walls Senior High School

    Situated in a 19th century building with a 21st century addition, this school blurs the physical and programmatic boundaries between a small urban high school and a research university, creating a seamless, grade 9 through 16 curriculum. This school-university partnership also grew to renew and expand a deteriorating historic school building and create a new residence hall.

  • Atrium School

    This project called for the adaptive reuse of a brick warehouse on a limited site in a mixed industrial/residential neighborhood into a functional schoolhouse for an expanding, independent K-6 program. The transformation required rethinking the building’s orientation relative to site and creating a playful interior sequence that breaks down the long and narrow building volume.

  • The Children's School

    This modified one-room schoolhouse for an established Montessori school is designed to support their child-centered teaching methodologies. The open space encourages the free movement of the child through different learning areas. Environmentally sensitive design features instill values of conservation and stewardship in the students.



    A Kindergarten school has been designed with an attempt to form it as an educational tool with emphasis more on visual education, which keeps them learning by analyzing and observation, a process where they learn with fun.
    The classrooms area not closed rooms but having big windows overlooking the corridor and the exterior spaces which form a visual link between two spaces where children from different class and parents can have view of classroom activities, expanding the volume of teaching areas.

  • Gilroy High School

    This student services facility also serves as a community center for the city. It encloses a central landscaped quad and provides a cafeteria, exterior snack bar, and open dining room for 600 students. Outdoor covered space accommodates another 300 students. The design promotes a sense of student and community engagement.

  • Menea Developed School project

    The major challenge of this project for the Egyptian ministry of education was how to create a new model for government schools that can cope with the fast development of teaching methods and technology together with the economic constraints of limited budgets for education in the developing countries.
    Our team views the school environment as essential to the development of the new generation of students who will be graduating in 14 years. The challenge is to try to make this school project in line with the latest educational developments yet within the constraints of a limited government budget.

  • JDT Islam

    The project explores the potentials of an experiential and territorial environ as pro-active learning space, contrary to the standard, functionally derived classrooms. Wrap-3 is an ‘insertion’ in an existing large campus to revitalize the institute and a set as a model / blue print for future actions / decisions. The design employs color for spatial definition and lean heavily on child psychology and color perception.

  • Oswego Early Childhood Center

    The architect partnered with the district to design a new facility that meets the unique needs of the children within the Early Learning program. Children who attend the school are between the ages of 3 and 5 and most have either physical or learning disabilities. The district’s goal was to improve the quality of their lives by designing the building to accommodate their needs and create the best learning environment.

  • Silver Lake Regional High School

    This mostly new comprehensive high school serves 1,1125 students from three towns. The design team’s challenge was to build on the site of the existing outdated facility and adjacent to a recently completed new middle school to create an educational campus to effectively serve the community.

  • Henson Valley Montessori School

    The Montessori philosophy and a former military compound. Was there ever an educational philosophy and building type that were so mismatched? Yet this renovations project - completed on a budget of thousands, not millions — turned seven “bunker buildings” into spaces that promote exploration and create connections with the outside world.

  • Jackson Community College

    The William Atkinson Hall Information and Technology Center (ITC) is the foundation for a new renaissance at the College’s campus, and is the result of an innovative approach to multiple academic programs resulting in a new hybrid building. This building merges the library, information commons, student lounge, flexible classrooms and multiple staff offices into a single structure. The building is the academic center for the College, as well as, providing state-of-the-art services to the surrounding community.

  • Resala Language School

    This is a K-12 campus located in a new suburb in Cairo. The school is to house all learning levels from kindergarten to pre university level with their playgrounds and facilities, all to be located on this limited 7500m2 site with 30% building ratio.


Project Details

NAME: UNICEF Child Friendly Schools: Learning Along Borders for Living Across Boundaries
PROJECT LEAD: Architecture for Humanity
LOCATION: Unspecified location
START DATE: June 21, 2008
CURRENT PHASE: Design development
COST: $500000 USD (Estimated)
PROJECT TYPE: Education Facility - Primary School
DESIGN FELLOW: Joshua Palmer