Educational facilities within Informal Tented Settlements (ITS) are often set up in existing tents or in other temporary shelters. In many cases, these educational spaces lack the essential features that define a safe learning environment. This is due to a lack of resources and the impossibility of using more permanent building materials within ITSs. It is thus common to find classrooms with no windows or natural light, no insulation and no ventilation. Inevitably, these conditions make children’s learning experience really challenging. Children in ITSs spend most of their time in tents or on the streets, as such these educational spaces are often the only place where they can relax and feel safe. It is therefore important that these spaces offer a good quality environment where children can come to learn and thrive.
After the development of the Bouday Child Friendly Space project, our partner War Child Holland (WCH) realised that significant improvements can be made to existing spaces, even with a limited budget. In collaboration with them, we therefore decided to build on this experience by turning two more existing buildings into Child Friendly Spaces. WCH would then use these spaces to conduct educational programs and psychosocial activities with vulnerable children.
The first of these spaces was located in Tal Abbas, Akkar – North of Lebanon. Prior to the intervention, it was simply a steel structure with a tiled roof and large glass walls. The structure was not designed to be a learning space so a lot of work had to be done to repurpose it. For this project, we drew on methods we had used to create the Jarahieh School, using sheep’s wool as an insulation material. This type of insulation has multiple technical benefits, and notably it is a local material that is widely available in Akkar. Using sheep’s wool also enabled us to work with vulnerable women living in Tal Abbas, who could bring their expertise to the project. Children were also engaged in this project and contributed to the construction process by painting and decorating the walls of the new learning space. You can read more about this innovative insulation technique and its benefits here.
The second space was located in the ITS of Al Jamous, Akkar, also North of Lebanon. This space was a small wooden structure, not much bigger than a tent. While it was already being used as a learning space, WCH wanted to maximise the space and come up with ideas to make it more child friendly. For this project, we worked closely with the local carpenter who had built the original structure. After an assessment with our local partners, we decided to implement three new elements: an interactive play wall, foldable furniture and wall decorations.
The play wall was designed to be used by children of different ages, as well as teachers who could easily change the configurations of the shelves. The foldable furniture (tables and chairs) were used to allow for different activities to take place in the room. It could be a traditional classroom set up or a more open space.
The results of this initiative were two vibrant child friendly spaces that WCH and other organisations could use to run educational and psychosocial activities with vulnerable children living in Tal Abbas and Al Jamous.