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School in a Box

Providing a 'How to' kit for people living in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe, to build a safe environment for young children to learn, grow and develop life skills. A space designed by the community, for the community.

Photo of Jonathan Joanes
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BACKGROUND RESEARCH

Zimbabwe’s education system, once regarded as one of the finest on the continent, was a casualty of the country’s economic meltdown. The government funds recognised official establishments of schools, however, the more distant and isolated villages do not get any support.

Education in Zimbabwe starts when children become six years old. Very few children are exposed to pre-schools and the government only funds official establishments.
 

WHAT IS SHIRI HOUSE?
 
We envisage villages and communities to unite and build Shiri houses for young children aged 0-5 years. These houses will form a hub within the community where children can learn, grow and develop life skills. Parents and volunteers from organisations would lead educational sessions.

We would like to provide essential building kits to remote and isolated villages such as Chinhoyi in Zimbabwe. This kit will provide essential materials and tools for the local residents to build a sheltered structure, together with any locally sourced materials available. An illustrated guide will also be included in the kit for the community to follow.

IN THE KIT
  • Hammer
  • Axe
  • Tenon Saw
  • Nails
  • Rope String
  • Bags
  • Illustrated Construction Guide
  • Potential Curriculum

POTENTIAL CIRRICULUM

0-2 years: Interaction with parents, playing to encourage story telling and sharing.
 
3 years: Stimulating the cognitive mind using available materials and activities such as sand, water, clay, gardening, games, shapes, colours etc.
 
4-5 years: Using books, stories, and discussions to prepare the children for primary school.
 

Who will benefit from this idea and where are they located?

We are reaching out to remote villages in Zimbabwe that do not get support from the government. We want children under the age of 6 years to attend a ‘pre-school’, which will act as a platform for when they start primary education.

Parents in the community can host classes and creative sessions to teach groups of children fundamental skills.

The Shiri House will also be used as a storage facility for learning materials. Books, pencils, blackboards and other educational tools can be preserved if there is a secure place to store them.
 

How could you test this idea in a quick and low-cost way right now?

Shiri House Hackathon! We propose to have events to invite members of the public and volunteers from organisations such as Educate Zimbabwe’s Children to build their own Shiri house using locally sourced materials with basic tools. By observing these events, we can gain valuable insights into how easy/difficult the structures are to build for people that have no concept of them, and what are the necessary tools to achieve this.
 

What kind of help would you need to make your idea real?

We would make our idea real by linking up with the organisations and sponsors who come forward to make our project from just a concept to reality.
 
EDUCATE ZIMBABWE’S CHILDREN
http://zimbabweschildren.org
 
The following organisation is collaboration of Zimbabwe and UK which works for children education project. This organisation can help us to a certain level in education & scholarship sectors.
 
CHILD PROTECTION SOCIETY OF ZIMBABWE
http://www.childprotection.co.zw
 
The following organisation works for protection and promotion of well being of vulnerable children and assist them to become self reliant & a responsible citizen. They also closely worked previously with UNICEF,
World education children, Catholic relief services, Action aid
Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) etc. This organisation can definitely do justice to our project and take children to a better place with there rights & opportunities in future.

Is this an idea that you or your organization would like to take forward?

  • Yes. I am looking for partners that might be interested in taking this idea forward in their communities.

47 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Kyren Whymes
Team

This is a great idea. I think this will be relatively easy to launch and maintain, especially after a few schools are set up as they can help others with their own learning environments.

Photo of Tameka T. Phillips
Team

Splendid idea!!!

Photo of Carla Sampaio Colares
Team

Thank you! :)

Photo of Naomi Spence
Team

Hey Jonathan and team great idea! I love how the community will be the driving force behind the production of the Shiri house.
A few points to consider who would who would oversee the construction of the Shiri house's and who would maintain the building and facilities after it is built?
Maybe the construction process of the Shiri houses could be used as an educational tool to help develop the parents skills.

Photo of Carla Sampaio Colares
Team

Hi, Naomi! Thank you for your comment. It is a good question, indeed! the maintenance of the Community center will be made by the residents, since it is a type of construction of cheap and easy maintenance. As the residents of the community will build the center, they will know how to keep it. And yes, the parents will be involved in the construction of space! I hope I answered your questions! :)

Photo of Guy Viner
Team

Sounds like a fab idea, Jonathan. We’d encourage you to try some part of this idea out in order to evolve it effectively and share back your learnings here. Check out our tips on prototyping: http://bit.ly/pr0totype We’re excited about what human centered discoveries you’ll make towards strengthening your idea further!

Photo of Carla Sampaio Colares
Team

Hi Guy! Thank you for your feedback. We'll definitely see your ideas.

Photo of Ayman Hanafi
Team

Great stuff Jonathan and a very east proposal to follow. Shiri houses seem a lovely idea and the actual learning environment that you've described seems inspiring. Play is great fun and so much learning is involved especially when playing with natural resources such as sand, water etc. In this kind of play, so much learning evolves, interaction, language skills and most of all friendship. Best of luck!

Photo of Kevin Nguyen
Team

I liked how you researched the age of young children that starts school, found out what was wrong and used that age range as a target for your idea. All of your illustrations are thought through to ensure that it is simple and easy to understand. How will you find a way to maintain the facilities that are created?.

Photo of asif masood
Team

Great idea team i love the idea that the shiri house can be used as a storage place as well as a educational center. I also love the fact that its aim is to get the youngest of children to build their confidence whilst learning at that age the brain is open to all so it will definitely have a brilliant effect on the future of upcoming generations of Zimbabwe.

Photo of Vishagan Baskaramoorthy
Team

It is important to also be aware of the sensitivity of changing the living environment visually and the rate at which it is changed. Using locally sourced materials is one great way to respect the living environment/traditions of the people of Chinhoyi. What else can be done to further consider this aspect of introducing the shiri houses to the villages? The kit is an effective way to teach key skills to the community and encourages them to apply what they have learnt to improve other aspects of their community themselves. Could there be a way the kids can be involved in the building process? As not only will they also learn key skills, they would then have a more personal attachment to these houses as they helped make them.

Photo of Vanusa Tissott Schorn
Team

Indeed, Vishagan Baskaramoorthy, thank you for your comment.

The Superadobe construction technique is not too difficult to be built, we did our research and watched videos such as this one, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sYSf0b4N6A In this video, we can see that even children help to build the house, with the right training, Chinhoyi community would be able to build the houses themselves.

In this video shows how to make a really nice and colourful floor for those houses, in a way that could be fun for children to do it.
http://www.naturalbuildingblog.com/earthbagsuperadobe-house-construction-video/

As the main material used is earth bags, this could be easily built. We thought also that introducing this way of construction to this community could lead also to other constructions or even a profession for the people that would be building this community center. As they will be trained on how to build the houses, they would easily be able to build others in the future.

If you have any other comment, suggestion, anything else, please let us know. :)

Photo of Ana Maria Copetti Maccagnan
Team

They could definitely apply some local techniques, starting in the materials using local earth and wood for example, but especially as Vanusa said in the paintings, they could use their own art style, and adapt the houses as the ones in their own village so it wouldn't be so attenuating the difference.

Photo of Vishagan Baskaramoorthy
Team

The video shows some great insight into the building process and how important teamwork is with a project like this. Therefore this project would be a great way to bring the community closer and strengthen them as a whole.
Also having the children design the floor/personalize these house could really add some character to the design(as you pointed out, using their own art style so it wouldn't be so different to whats there already). Perhaps they could get kits including things tailored to what they can do?
Your research and concept really show that the whole process up to is equally as important as the end goal in terms of what you are providing to the community through this idea. Great work!

Photo of Vanusa Tissott Schorn
Team

Yes, definitely. Thank you for your comment and idea once again. :)

Photo of Uve Kindia
Team

Great work Joanthan and the team. The first thing that crossed my mind when I saw this was this is an excellent was of bringing up a community to learn and grow as one. But on the other hand maybe you should look at ways of getting parents to put their on input into a child’s forever learning cycle

Photo of André Santos Correia
Team

Very useful idea, kids have to be shaped and stimulated in certain directions and with certain goals from an early stage. I found your planned curriculum very important, without those goals, children would have much more difficulties than others who attended pre-school classes.

Photo of Dalv Mac
Team

Great idea team, have you spoke to any organisations that will be willing to back this idea? Getting the community to build the shiri houses is a great way to introduce community interaction. Keep on developing the idea, maybe prototyping will be the next step, with the intended audience.

Photo of Yee Ting (Christy) Chan
Team

thumbs up for this idea!! everyone gets involve, build up skill together and provide shelter.

Assume that the Shiri house will look just like the one in your video (tho its like of half finished..)

wheres the light gonna get in? apart from the windows on the side, there is no window on top, will it be bright enough for people to learn/ read etc inside this house? if not what light source they gonna use?

light is very important especially for learn!
maybe showing a simple drawing of how the Shiri house will exactly look like will be good

hope this help a bit :)

Photo of Daniel Brox
Team

Brilliant idea, Jonathan and the team. There is one part I feel is a loose thread at the moment, and that is the "Potential Curriculum". I would love to see that part expanded a bit more upon, since there is the issue of the actual teaching materials, such as books and chalkboards (and lack thereof).

Photo of Ana Maria Copetti Maccagnan
Team

Thank you Daniel, the potential curriculum was made by talking with primary schools teachers in Uk, but we understand that even with volunteers giving "talking classes" would be needed some materials donations, like games, boards, notebooks...

Photo of Design Pakistan
Team

great idea with interesting visuals!! want to know if the space will be durable?

Photo of Ana Maria Copetti Maccagnan
Team

Yes it is, earth is one of the most durable materials, and this technique was already tested in other cities. Try to research about Hesperia, California for example.

Photo of Lee Stopher
Team

Great idea, Jonathan and team.

Getting the community involved is building their own space to learn and play is a great incentive for both the parents and children.

Prototyping this will be the next step to test the idea with the intended audience and see how long it would realistically take to build such a structure. The curriculum will always develop once put in place, allowing the parents and teachers to have their own input.

I look forward to the next step.

Keep up the great work!

Photo of Ana Maria Copetti Maccagnan
Team

Thank you Lee

Photo of Bidur Gurung
Team

Besides Shiri house, on your "How to "kit could you also have instructions to build necessary amenities such as lavatory, tables and chairs?

Photo of Bidur Gurung
Team

Great work guys! Well illustrated and promising idea of making organic shelter, however the video seem cut halfway. Is this the final design of what Shiri House would look like? People's culture and traditions should be carefully observed and valued. Perhaps look into the houses in Zimbabwe and through your design bring about the feeling of nativeness. Also think about the size of the room, children needs enough open spaces for them to play, be creative and learn at the same time.

Photo of Bernhard Eiser
Team

It is one of the major issues in your particular area, there is no protective space to spent time with the children and to store learning materials.

Have you thought about the interior elements of the education centre?
It would be awesome if the community had some sort of table or surface to draw play and learn on.

Photo of Vanusa Tissott Schorn
Team

Hi Bernhard Eiser, thank you for your comment and suggestion. :) We have thought about different materials that could be fun for children to play and learn such as books, (coloring books, story books, arts and crafts books), chalkboards, we could have tables and chairs and also a chushioned area to listen to stories, workshops for the parents could also happen. We could have other games and activities for the kids, but this is something we definitely have to think further. We would need to check with the community what type of materials they would like to have and also by talking to local teachers we could get more information.

Photo of Emmanuel Agu
Team

I visualise this idea as a very meaningful and intriguing concept that would serve many purposes for the children and the community.
However a question i ask is how could reach to an agreement with the village leaders to hold these classes in the community because they may not buy into it as you will be invading their personal tradition and culture...
how long those it take to create and construct a learning hubs? how can you test if they are fully safe and durable?

Photo of Vanusa Tissott Schorn
Team

Hi Emmanuel Agu, thank you for your commment. Firstly, Our next step would be talking to different organizations that have already worked in this community. As they have worked there, they have lots of information about the culture, people, traditions etc. So, they could advise us whether the community would like this idea or not. One of this organizations is Educate Zimbabwe’s Children that we mentioned above.

Secondly, We have come across Cal-earth through our research. Cal-earth is an amazing source of information for us as they have held workshops around the world on how to build superadobe houses, the time for building varies, it depends on how large each eco-dome would be, but it says that it can be build in 10 weeks.

I would suggest you to watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMNzoWkXTtc

and also, have a look at Cal-earth website: http://calearth.org/faq.html
Many important aspects of building eco-domes is written in there. The construction time is mentioned in technical, question number 3.

Those two organizations have amazing tools that could help us to make this project a reality so, next step would be getting in touch with them to collect information and check the possibility of a sponsorship or partnership.

Photo of Pedro Rodrigues
Team

This idea was so clever when you team decided to use this type of architecture that use the materials that the place have. As you probably had looked is that this technique were created to build in the moon, if I am not wrong, so it's great to use it in low-income communities. Another thing is that you are creating a way to develop the sense of community and group. The illustrations are lovely! You should keep developing and make it real!

Photo of Ana Maria Copetti Maccagnan
Team

Thank you for your feedback :)))

Photo of Julia Starzyk
Team

The idea has a lot of potential. If I were you I would not design only a kit for building a place but also what is exactly goi g to be done there. You said about parents and volonteers running sessions for kids to teach them pre school, life skills. Like what? Be more specific. How many kids at a time ? How many volonteers/parents at a time ? What skills ? Like responsibility, love, difference between right and wrong or rather reading and writing ? If you design this place to show what is its purpose that would be a mile stone for those people to really adapt it into their culture.

Photo of Charlotte Norris
Team

It's great that you have considered the age ranges and what the infants can do between specific ages. Having somewhere safe, clean and somewhere that is a learning focused environment is interesting and I imagine useful. You mention teaching children "fundamental skills", have you thought about ways of including the parents in this learning experience? Perhaps you can have workshops for parents/mothers at specific times of the day? Or mother and baby groups?

Photo of Charlotte Norris
Team

PS. Really love the visuals (illustrations and photos). Well done guys!

Photo of Vanusa Tissott Schorn
Team

Hi Charlotte, thank you for your comment. Parents will definitely be part of this community center. Shiri houses as mentioned would interact with parents, it would be a sort of playgroup with different activities that could be nice for babies such as storytelling and many other activities that could be fun for the children and the parents. In the fisrt illustration shows different activities that could be done. Workshops is a great idea. There could be even workshops that could train parents on how to grow food or another one that could show the importance of breast feeding and reading for babies. The idea is three houses so each of them could lead different activities. If you have other suggestions, please write down. :)

Photo of Ana Maria Copetti Maccagnan
Team

We also expect people from the local community to share some life experience with those kids, parents and locals, it could be stories, history of the village, music...

Photo of Bernhard Eiser
Team

Great comment Charlotte, It would be great to utilise the knowledge that is within the community. Maybe there could the a fixed day and time in the week, where one community member runs a particular event.

Photo of Sam Graham
Team

This could be a very successful idea. I love how you have researched into how their classrooms are and that the fact they don't really have any. What they have doesn't give them enough of a platform to learn. This is a great way to tackle this. They could take part in the minor building to learn the fundamental skills of how to build simple structures, in turn this will give them a sense of achievement to be able to learn and be in something that they participated in to build. A few things to thing about
1) Could there potentially be a crafts class within the lessons that already take place which the children could build little things to contribute to the classes that will be built? For instance little ornaments made from clay.
and
2) Could there be additional activities for the adults and children to do within Shiri house outside of the learning sessions?
I think this is a well thought of idea. Simple yet affective. Well done!

Photo of Ana Maria Copetti Maccagnan
Team

Thank for your feedback. About the second ideia, is exactly what the community center is suppose to be, a place where you can give classes but after other activities with adults and children together, we thought about spaces to share experiences and play music for example.

Photo of Sam Graham
Team

Your welcome! I do apologise! I must of misinterpreted it. Maybe in relation with the first suggestion create little models out of sand or clay as a prototype.. but overall good idea! Well done!

Photo of Vanusa Tissott Schorn
Team

Thank you Sam Graham for the idea of creating a prototype using clay or sand. It could show very well the design of these houses. If you have anything else to add, please let us know. :)

Photo of Khushwant Kasba
Team

Why not use a pallets jointed together, to build the framework single storey building, covered with the right materials to protect from the elements to start with.

Photo of Vanusa Tissott Schorn
Team

Khushwant Kasba, Thank you for you comment. The community center would be built using Superadobe technique. It´s cheap than usual constructions, creates confortable spaces and it is environmentally friendly. In this website it explains very well what it is: http://calearth.org/building-designs/what-is-superadobe.html

It is not difficult to be built, we did our research and watched videos such as this one : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sYSf0b4N6A
In this video, we can see that even children help to build the house, with the right training, Chinhoyi community would be able to build the houses themselves.

CalEarth is an institute we found through our research, they held workshops in many countries to train people on how to build Superadobe houses, they have got great tools such as books, downloadable films, superadobe bags, blueprints which could be really helpfulto make this project a reality.

We provided some materials that would be necessary to build these houses but we would definitely need further information about this. We mentioned that in the kit would contain a guide book but we could even go further and train the community through workshops and also having an expert to help things go in the right way would be essential.

If you have any suggestions, useful information, tips, anything, please let us know. :)

Photo of Khushwant Kasba
Team

Thanks for clearing that up, perhaps you could put that information in kit part of your pages

Photo of Vanusa Tissott Schorn
Team

Yes, definitely. I'm sorry for not being clear about the construction in the first place. We will be doing that soon. Thank you!!