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Supplies and Logistics

Education kits: increasing inclusivity and relevance


UNICEF’s beloved School-in-a-Box has been around for more than 20 years, and like the children it serves, it has grown up over time. Its origins reflect the reason why UNICEF exists:  to put children’s rights at the heart of development and humanitarian action. The School-in-a-Box is a critical supply item in emergency response and transition programming, a rallying point in fund raising and an icon of great design for children.

School-in-a-Box is a logistically sensible way to provide children and teachers learning and teaching materials when schools and school supplies have been lost due to natural disaster or conflict. A deeper understanding of children’s needs and cultural sensitivities based on experience using the kit in various settings around the world, the availability of new technology and innovative thinking continue to drive ongoing improvement of this important kit.

In 2014, Supply and Programme colleagues conducted a comprehensive review of UNICEF’s standardised education kits: School-in-a-Box, Recreation Kit, and Early Childhood Development (ECD) Kit. The review included both staff surveys and end-user surveys of students and teachers from four countries. The process culminated in a workshop held in Copenhagen that brought together colleagues from Supply Division, regional and country offices, and Programme Division colleagues representing expertise in education, child protection, early childhood development, children with disabilities, and adolescent development and participation. External partners, including Save the Children and the Norwegian Refugee Council, also participated.

The workshop generated substantial evidence-based debate and resulted in a series of kit improvement recommendations. A timely and important component of the discussions focused on ways to adapt universal design principles into supply items to reduce barriers for children living with disabilities. Universal Design does not change the functionality of supply items and does not mean adding more items exclusively for children with disabilities. Instead, universal design makes supply items more user-friendly so that more children can use them. Examples of proposed changes include:

  • Adding tactile features to globes and adding a magnifying glass to one end of rulers.
  • Including Braille markings on posters and raised letters on clocks.
  • Increasing the ratio of yellow to white chalk as yellow provides a better contrast against blackboards.

Supplies for children with disabilities is a rapidly growing area of work for UNICEF support to programmes. UNICEF’s first-ever forum on assistive technology which  identified opportunities to make supplies for children with disabilities more accessible, affordable and appropriate, was hosted by Supply Division in Copenhagen in July. 

Did you know?

  • The original School-in-a-Box served the needs of 80 children in a classroom. Seven years ago, the kit was re-designed to meet the quality education needs of 40 children. Each and every child now receives their own notebook, slate, pen, pencil, and other basic learning supplies.
  • Production of the standard School-in-a-Box takes place in UNICEF’s warehouse hub in Shanghai, managed by Supply Division.
  • The components of School-in-a-Box are also available in re-configured formats to cut costs (e.g., School-in-a-Carton) or to meet specific requirements in specific country-wide education programmes.
  • The School-in-a-Box was so-named by UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassador, Harry Belafonte.
  • In 2014, UNICEF procured $63 million in education supplies. This included 21,653 classroom kits, 84,548 country-specific class room kits, 21,877 recreation kits, and 13,095 ECD kits.



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