Sustainable Cities™

Goa: Mobile schools

In the state of Goa in India, Danish couple Anders Linnet and Mette Lange have set up a project they have called MovingSchools. Their mobile classrooms can be moved to wherever Indian migrant workers and their families live and work. This enables their children to get a free education no matter where their parents have to work. The school is built from cheap, local materials, its wheels allowing a tractor to pull it to wherever the children need it. The children are taught in their own language, giving them a unique opportunity to attend school, even if they do not speak the local language.

Moving School, foto venligst udlånt af

In Goa, mobile schools will follow the pupils and not vice-versa. The pupils are children of migrant workers from the state of Karnataka, Goa's south-western neighbour in the southern part of India. Their parents are employed on short term contracts in Goa, building roads, working in quarries or at building sites. Their offspring cannot attend local schools for the simple reason that they do not speak the local language. The mobile classrooms are located in the parents' camps, usually for 5-8 month until the families move on.

The classroom itself is built on a chassis of steel like a farm trailer. The body of the trailer measures 2.1 x 5 metres when closed and has two end gables. The gables provide storage space. One end has the blackboard and teacher's desk built in and the other has the entrance and shelves for the children's shoes. A ramp folds down for access. The sides of the trailer fold out to make the roof and extend the floor to about 20 m². The upper part of the sides that become the roof are made of steel sheeting covered with bamboo and bamboo mats provide insulation against the heat and dull the drumming of monsoon rain on the roof. The walls of the school are made of bamboo which lets in the light and provides ventilation. A solar panel mounted on an awning above the entrance door provides enough electricity for a fan and two lightbulbs, allowing teaching to continue after dark.

Moving School, courtesy of

On their rounds in the area, collaborating Indian NGOs select families and offer them free school places. These children have not previously had any formal schooling, so learning and attending school are quite a challenge for them. Pupils are rewarded with biscuits when they arrive at school and those who stay on our given a school uniform and other equipment after a couple of months. If these children never get a schooling they will end up illiterate, like their parents, and face a future working in the worst-paid, unhealthy and physically demanding jobs. MovingSchools offers the children a unique opportunity to break with their social heritage and make a better future for themselves.

The mobile schools accommodate 15 to 20 pupils, considerably fewer than the 60 pupils usually found in an Indian classroom. The children learn to write, read and do arithmetic. In addition they have lessons in geography, environmental studies, simple physics, PE, singing and art. Their school day begins at 8.30 a.m. and ends at 4 pm, with an hour and a half break for lunch in the day. Monday to Saturday, although Saturday is only a half day. The teachers are well trained and as well as speaking the children's local language, they also master India's main languages Hindi and English. They teach in accordance with Indian principles.

MovingSchools is a non-profit organisation currently financed by private Danish and Indian funds and private individuals. Although prototypes of the mobile schools are being built in India, the intention is to transfer the concept to other countries with similar needs. The schools are built using simple, cheap local materials to simple drawings. This means that it is not difficult for ordinary metalworkers or carpenters to build the schools in countries and places where they are needed. When the first schools in India have been assessed, the drawings will be released on the MovingSchools website as open source so that others can build mobile schools. 

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014