Frequently Asked Questions
What is Classrooms for Africa All About?
Classrooms for Africa is a unique and realistic 21st Century approach to breaking the cycle of poverty that plagues much of sub-Saharan Africa. We believe that by focusing on supporting the education of future generations a significant improvement can be made in people’s lives and communities can be changed.
Other organizations with similar goals make the same claim so what makes Classrooms for Africa different? It is the way in which we approach the task, our focus on outcomes, and the high levels of accountability we have built into the program. Classrooms for Africa has created a solid governance model with low overhead and administrative costs – on average 95% of donated funds are used for actual projects. We have also developed a unique network of local partners to assist us in identifying and monitoring projects. The result is a program that is highly effective and efficient in getting projects completed and in the use of donated funds.
The basic building block of the program is the single classroom. The cost of delivering a single, functional, permanent classroom for 30-50 African children averages around $11,500 Canadian. Because of the program, thousands of children have been given the opportunity to attend school and with it the prospect of a brighter future.
What is our vision?
In our first 10 years (2008 – 2018) we were able to provide classrooms for over 16,000 children and provided training for 400 teachers. By 2028 the goal is to provide classrooms for at least another 20,000 and to train a further 600 teachers. To accomplish this, we need to build 500 classrooms. Assuming an average cost of $11,5001 per classroom, our need is to raise $5.7M Canadian. In addition, we need to raise $1.5M Canadian for support buildings such as dormitories, kitchens and latrines.
 Location and cost of building materials affect costs; classrooms can cost $9,000 to $14,000 (Canadian)
Why Eastern and Southern Africa??
The area stretching from South Sudan in the north to South Africa was selected for several reasons:
· From personal experience we have seen that many children in this area do not have access to education. The AIDS epidemic, civil war and economic dysfunction have all contributed to an increase in the number of orphans, a breakdown of the social system and extreme poverty.
· Government schooling, while being the declared goal in many countries, is often under-funded and lacking buildings and resources. Schools are often understaffed by unmotivated, poorly qualified teachers
· Many communities in these countries have recognized the urgent need for life changing education. In most situations they know it cannot become a reality without outside help from organizations such as Classrooms for Africa
· Classrooms for Africa staff and our current supporters are familiar with the region, we have strong relationships with communities and schools in the area and have a history of involvement with school projects preceding the establishment of Classrooms for Africa
· The region is relatively peaceful and accessible
· English is the primary “unifying” language throughout Eastern and Southern Africa which is an advantage when communicating with groups on the ground and providing teacher instruction
How are projects reviewed and approved?
Applications to Classrooms for Africa must be submitted by the school authority or a member of the local community appointed by the authority (e.g. Principal, School Board Chairman). Grants are not given to individual or to family operated schools but only to schools that are community or group operated and where a governance structure is in place that assures an individual or family will not profit from the grant or the structure built with the grant. Information required in the application includes:
· Information about the community and/or school organization applying for the funds (name, contact(s), history, location, references, organization’s stated purpose, governance structure, current school sponsorship and funding (capital, operating), proof of ownership of the land in the name of a registered group or organization, current student enrolment)
· School must normally have been in operation for a minimum of two year and have a record of being able to fund the school’s day to day operating costs.
· Description of the project and sketch or plan showing the proposed building(s)
· What the community contribution will be e.g. labour, brick, materials
· Timeline for construction
· A detailed construction budget
· Procedures for the disbursement and tracking of grants received.
· Plans for maintaining the building once it is completed
Applications are reviewed by the Classrooms for Africa staff and graded on the following Board approved criteria:
· Location – among many factors we consider are accessibility and need
· Evidence of a clear vision for the project by the school and community leaders
· Proven ability to run and fund the school’s operation
· Age and number of students being served
· Evidence of strong community support, including commitments (cash or in-kind) to the project
· Availability of labour and resources
· History of any past experiences working with Classrooms for Africa
Testimonials and qualified references are used in the review. Money is only allocated for bricks and mortar. The local school community is expected to contribute land, labour and resources to each classroom project.
How does accountability work?
Classrooms for Africa recognizes that accountability to our partners and donors is essential. To earn and retain your trust, we have developed a focused mission and governance structure with:
· Clear objectives
· Transparency and open communication
· Strong financial accounting
· On-site management and confirmation of work accomplished
We know that it’s important to establish a clear “line of sight” between our donors, their contributions and the project(s) they are funding. We insist on solid, verified information at each stage in the application and construction process. Funds are transferred in installments and are linked to satisfactory building progress at each stage and financial records. Discrepancies, even minor ones, are investigated and corrected prior to further funds being transferred.
What happens when a project is approved?
The recipient organization is required to agree to and sign a contract that clearly lays out the terms under which the grant is made, the requirements for accountability and the consequences of non-compliance. Once this agreement is signed, arrangements are made to transfer funds as per the agreement.
Classrooms for Africa matches the project with donors and keeps the donor informed as the project progresses.
What happens when the project is completed?
When the project is completed, the building is officially handed over to the school. Normally a plaque is installed on the building indicating how it was funded. Classrooms for Africa partners with other groups to ensure that arrangements are made to provide appropriate teacher and leadership training. While we are careful not to create a climate of dependency, further applications from the school will be entertained depending on the success of the first project, the need and the availability of funds. Classrooms for Africa stays in contact with the school to monitor the ongoing progress of the school.
What is the connection with other Associations?
We do take every opportunity to work with other organizations. For example, we work with the Association of Christian Schools International Western Canada (ACSI WC), to provide teacher training, desks and occasionally classrooms. We are not directly connected to ACSI WC but we have developed a strong and vibrant partnership. ACSI’s focus is on Christian education and specifically what happens in the classroom. We also work, on a regular basis, with Child Care International Canada (CCI Canada) and CLEAN International.
how can donors help?
The entire Classrooms for Africa initiative is donor driven. Your support as an individual, corporate or school donor, can make a significant difference in the lives of hundreds of African children.
Canadian tax receipts are provided for donations. Donations can be sent through the mail or submitted online through the website.