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an American author Mellisa Sharpe wrote about the Happy Classrooms project .....



Painting the Future: Transforming the Classroom in Africa

Walk into a primary school classroom in Europe or the United States, and you're likely to be met by a wall of color. Bright pictures, beanbags, flowers, books, and toys are all part of the learning experience. Over the course of the academic year classrooms are likely to undergo many evolutions, as children explore themes such as forests, space, and dinosaurs. It is not unusual for a papier-mâché palm tree to pop up during pirate week, or for the room to be transformed into a submarine whilst the students investigate the creatures on the bottom of the ocean. The message is clear: learning should be a fun, visual experience. Many schools in the west have access to the resources to make this kind of learning environment a reality. The Happy Classrooms project is now seeking to do the same in countries where the typical primary classroom is a whitewashed box.


Calculated Colors

The reason that the classrooms of the western world are bright and cheerful has little to do with a frivolous desire to make things pretty. Numerous studies have shown that children learn through many different channels. They listen, feel, do, and observe. In order to gain a full learning experience, children need to have all of these capacities stimulated. Being able to recite the alphabet is just one part of learning it. In order to ensure that it is learned properly, a child needs to be able to see it too. In addition to this, children have very vivid imaginations, and this means that a bright color or a simple picture can resonate deeply with areas of the mind such as memory and recall. It is therefore not hard to transform a bare room into a powerful learning space with the use of a few bright colors and well-designed pictures.


Rational Thinking

There are many reasons for investing in early education. It is not just that being able to read, write, and do arithmetic gives children skills that can increase their employment prospects in the future. One of the most important skills that learning can provide is rational thinking. Rational thinking is the ability to look at a situation objectively and think "is this right?". In a world full of corruption and opportunities to fall into trouble this skill is needed more than ever. African countries in particular have become the target of drug traffickers, and drug use is already becoming a major problem in many of its nation states. Many people all over the world are looking for ways to tackle the problems of crime and drugs, and this means that most people are looking at ways to help adult drug users than ways to prevent future drug users. There is certainly hope for the millions who have fallen into the trap with resources such as offering support and advice for addicts. However, it remains the case that prevention is better than the cure, and finding ways to support people during their childhoods can dramatically reduce the chances of them growing into troubled adults.


Moving Forwards

The current Happy Classrooms program in Malawi takes the concept of visual learning into some of the most needy areas of the country. Very few resources are required in order to paint numbers, pictures, and letters on the walls. Spaces are transformed from bland boxes into vibrant arenas of information that stimulate the young minds inside. It is a testament to the dedication of educators throughout Africa that there are now more schools than ever before, and that the children of today have one of the best chances ever of receiving an education. Although UNICEF figures show that a high number of children in the continent are still not in school, this is nevertheless a significant improvement on earlier years. That some of the ones who can go to school are able to learn in classrooms rich in color and detail is highly encouraging.


Making it a Reality

By spreading its message that learning should be an all-round experience, the Happy Classrooms project has taken one of the fundamental messages to have emerged from modern psychological and developmental research and made it a reality. Over the coming years, its results may start to be seen. As a new generation of youngsters emerge into the turbulent adult world that they have inherited, the hope is that not all of the older generation's legacy will be a bitter pill. It will not take much rational thinking to heal many of the wounds of the world, and investing in early education by using a few simple tools such as colors and shapes is a simple and invaluable way of beginning.