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UNICEF Innovation

School Furniture Design and Procurement Guidelines

UNICEF procures and supplies large quantities of school furniture, particularly in Africa and Asia, however the lack of a defined management process, standard designs, general specifications and centralized guidelines often hinders the procurement process


School furniture in developing countries tends to be poorly designed both structurally and ergonomically, therefore poorly suited for its intended purpose. Procurement processes can often be burdensome. Among the issues and challenges reported by different UNICEF country offices in terms of school furniture procurement, the most notable are: lack of specifications, lack of child friendly designs, difficulties of transportation and supply, obtaining furniture using materials of appropriate quality and origin, and lack of durability.

School furniture is an essential part of the supply component of Education and Child Survival country programmes. The connection between comfortable school furniture and increased learning and development of children in classrooms reveals that high quality child-friendly school furniture is essential for children’s ability to learn. In addition, this project seeks to reduce the carbon footprint caused by importing furniture from overseas, by creating school furniture designs suitable for local production and with the use of locally available materials.

The project

The purpose of the project is twofold. First, to develop new, innovative furniture designs which are built locally with locally available materials, are easy to assemble, require low maintenance, and are strong, durable and child-friendly. Secondly, to develop a local procurement guideline that covers all aspects of furniture planning such as design, production, delivery and maintenance.

The design models and the guideline are aimed to support UNICEF education and supply officers in the field to procure and deliver child friendly, quality and sustainable school furniture globally. The design models are meant to be generic, therefore adaptable to local conditions and/or standards.

It is UNICEF’s hope that the new designs together with the procurement guideline will enable some of the following:

   -  Sustainable growth: There will be an efficient use of raw materials in a low-resource setting that has a positive impact on the environment. Furthermore, local production of furniture will also help build local capacity of manufacturers and reduce reliance on importing ready made goods. While boasting local economy, local production makes maintenance a lot easier and lengthens the life span of furniture.

   -  Facilitate learning and teaching: Studies have shown a direct connection between comfortable school furniture and increased learning and development. Similarly, teaching methods can be facilitated with the new, easy-to-move, light weight modular furniture which is designed to give teachers better access to each and every student in the classroom.

   -  Easier Transportation: Flat packed furniture can be easily transported, handled and assembled resulting in huge cost savings in transportation, low carbon emissions and fewer incidents of damage during transit.

The project is currently in scale-up phase after having successfully reached two milestones: completion of furniture designs, and realization of a local procurement guideline for UNICEF colleagues that covers all aspects of furniture planning.

Related information

Innovating for a more Sustainable School Environment, December 2017
Primary School Furniture and Procurement Guideline Scale Up, December 2015
School furniture – produced in Africa, for Africa, April 2014

UNICEF Target Product Profile webpage






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