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Classrooms at government primary schools are usually dark and bare. The Happy Classrooms program changes them into an inspiring and child-friendly space.



3-minute film


detailed program description





Why the Happy Classrooms Program

When following the children graduating from boNGO’s Model Childcare Centers (link to the early education program) to primary schools, boNGO realized what a step down it is for “our” children. Classrooms at the government schools are, bare, dark, overcrowded (up to 200 pupils) and lacking text books. Teaching is mostly limited to oral learning and repetition. This makes it difficult for children to concentrate; some of them are left behind, losing interest, unable to follow what the teacher is explaining. That is especially a problem in the early grades when reading, writing and basic math are being taught - the essential pre-requisites for every person’s future studies.


Finding a comprehensive, long-term solution to this ongoing problem is a huge task but boNGO came with an idea to bring an immediate and concrete improvement.


A grade-one classroom at Nankumba primary school (Southern Malawi, 20 km off the Blantyre city) was painted with child-friendly decorations that reflected the syllabus. The effects were immediate – concentration and understanding were enhanced, teachers started using more teaching methods and an interesting phenomenon was observed – pupils teaching each other after between lessons.


boNGO saw the huge potential and raised funds to paint 50 classrooms in 9 primary schools. Two professional painters/sign-writers were hired. And a Painting Manual was developed – a collection of graphics that were to be painted in each classroom - so far in grade 1 & 2.


Thus, the Happy Classrooms Program (HCP) came into the world.

Major impacts of the Happy Classrooms Program

•          Pupils learn in an inspirational environment; and teachers have a variety of teaching aids


  • concentration is enhanced, discipline is improved and learning is more enjoyable

•          Passing rates improve by about 30%

•          Self-studying and peer teaching is encouraged

•          Teachers are trained to use a broader variety of teaching methods

•           Schools save money on buying markers and flipcharts



What was reached so far

Since 2011 about 1 000 Happy Classrooms were painted in about 250 schools. Each year about 124 000 pupils are benefiting from the program (average number of pupils per class is 124; source: World bank 2013). Since 2014 are Happy Classrooms painted also in grades 3&4.



Funding of the Happy Classrooms


Each Happy Classrooms costs about 500 USD. The price is always depending on:

-       how destroyed are the classroom walls (some are not even plastered)

-       how far from Blantyre (where boNGO is located) the classrooms are

-       how many classrooms are painted at the same time


The Happy Classrooms have been mostly funded by

-       Malawian companies (as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility)

-       International NGOs which contracted boNGO to paint classrooms in their catchment areas

-       Various clubs and organizations from abroad

-       Foreigners who visited the Happy Classrooms



Phases of the Happy Classrooms Program:

•       Identification of a funding partner and selection of benefiting primary schools (carried out by boNGO and the funding partner)

•       Meeting with the local representatives of the Ministry of Education (the District Education Manager and Primary Education Advisors) in order to introduce the HC program and share responsibilities, such as monitoring and training (carried out by boNGO)

•       Meeting with the local Head-teachers, Teachers, School Committees, Parents’ & Teachers’ Committees, Village Development Committees, Mothers’ Groups and Traditional Authorities in order to introduce the HC program and share responsibilities, such as who prepares the classroom, or who provides free accommodation for the painters. Content of the walls is discussed with the teachers and extra requirements agreed (carried out by boNGO)

•       Purchase of paints and other materials, distribution to schools. (carried out by boNGO)

•       Classrooms preparation – walls are cleaned with water and soap, if necessary walls are plastered and holes filled (carried out by primary schools)

•       Painting the Happy Classrooms - about 6 days per class (carried out by boNGO painters)

•       Training teachers in the use of the Happy Classroom walls during lessons, and distribution of the Happy Classrooms Teachers’ Guide.. The training is compulsory for ALL the school’s teachers because they swap classes each year)

•       Monitoring of lessons and evaluation, extra consultations provided to teachers if needed (carried out by boNGO in cooperation with the District Education Manager and Primary Education Advisors)




Future of the Happy Classrooms Program

It is not boNGO’s intention to simply continue painting more Happy Classrooms. We want to share the HCP know-how with other NGOs so that the concept can be simultaneously replicated at various parts of Malawi and soon reach all primary schools (about 6000).


The long-term vision is that the HCP concept becomes an integral part of every newly constructed school in Malawi (and other countries where it is relevant). That must be done through influencing the policy makers at government/UN level.








Schools that have benefited from the project :

Blantyre Urban

Blantyre Rural

Nsanje (remote area in southern Malawi)

Other areas


Sponsors and partners from Malawi:


Chambo Fisheries, TNM, FMB, Andrex Industries, Pick-A-Part, NBS, Steers, NU Cement Hardware, Rotary club of Limbe, Malawi Sun hotel, Galaxy Pharmaceutical, Mount Soche Sunbird hotel, Rab Processors, Eastern Produce, Creative Revolution, Hope Africa, Ryalls hotel, Group One, Barloword, Suncrest, Mapeto Tyres, PG Glass, Bata, Nico Insurance, Toyota Malawi, Siku Transport, PTC, Carlsberg, United General Insurance, PIM, Malawi Stock Exchange, Agora, Frank Knight, Manica, Dulux, Monolux, Valmore, Plascon, Rainbow paints, FDH, SDV, Airtel, Mkango Phalombe Ltd., Plan International, Concern Worldwide, Faizal Aboo, CDH, Round Table/PEP Store, Illovo Sugar, NBM, Manerera Project, St. Andrews primary school, Islamic Relief, and individual private supporters




Sponsors and partners from abroad:


Czech Republic:

Era od Poštovní Spořitelny, Nadace Agrofert, Javlin a.s., James Cook Languages, Rotary Club 2240, Primary school Kolin II, and individual private supporters


Great Britain:

FOMA, St. Mary Adderbury church, and individual private supporters



Ostschweizer helfen Ostschweizern, Schuelerrat der PMS Kreuzlingen, Stadt Frauenfeld, and individual private supporters.