Classrooms Beyond Walls
Curated Story
This article originally appeared on
World Policy Institute

Walk into the small town where Actonville Primary School (APS) is located in South Africa and you may find yourself in the middle of a dance competition, an emotional and physical well-being checkup, or a community gathering—all planned and managed by primary-school students. At APS, students create and oversee “community heart and soul” days like these on a regular basis and nurture partnerships with more than 30 local organizations to offer services to the school and the wider community.

Just like APS, schools and social entrepreneurs in many African countries are redesigning education by offering hands-on experiences during the school year and, in many cases, asking students to apply what they are learning in the classroom to solve community problems. These opportunities reduce the likelihood that students will become disaffected by an education they find irrelevant. They do not have to wait for future internships or apprenticeships to gain real-world experience.


Ashoka Insight

Schools that use this approach create accountability by ensuring that the curriculum supports the development of transferable knowledge and is applicable to projects outside the classroom walls. Changing classroom design to include problem solving in real-world settings makes a difference. This approach to education and skills development is creating a generation of prepared, skilled, and resilient youth who leave school with useful work experience.

There are two important principles that social innovators employ to effectively design classrooms that better prepare young people for successful livelihoods:

  1. Structuring hands-on team experiences that require problem solving
  2. Identifying creative financing models to make hands-on classroom experiences possible

Reem Rahman works at Ashoka Changemakers as a Product and Knowledge Manager to help anyone with an idea for social change succeed in making a difference. She is passionate about creating open-source tools for learning and designs products to increase collaboration, impact, and sustainability. These have included a dashboard for every user to receive custom feedback, the Changemakers Guide to Pitching and Crash Course, and guides on trends in social innovation.

Prior to joining Ashoka, Reem was one of the Managing Directors for the innovative Rethinking Islamic Reform forum in the UK, which has reached over a hundred thousand viewers to date and she directed communications and public relations for a civil rights group in Chicago
Lynsey Farrell is a Senior Change Manager and works with the Global Partnerships and Africa Teams. Since 2013, she has been managing Ashoka's partnership with the MasterCard Foundation, a multi-million dollar grant supporting innovations in youth livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to Ashoka, Lynsey directed American University’s semester abroad program on “Issues in Sustainable Development in Nairobi, Kenya. Lynsey’s experience in Kenya began with a Fulbright student fellowship, followed by doctoral studies in cultural anthropology at Boston University. Her doctoral work was based on seven years of ethnographic research with youth self-help organizations in Nairobi’s largest informal settlement. In East Africa, Lynsey also worked as a consultant on a range of strategic planning and capacity strengthening assignments for a variety of non-profits, including the East Africa Law Society and Maendelo ya Wanawake, the largest and oldest grassroots women’s organization in Kenya.

More For You