Quake-hit study in makeshift schools


Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, June 18.

It's been more than three years since the devastating earthquakes hit Nepal, but more than half of the schools that were damaged are yet to be rebuilt. This will force tens of thousands of students to take classes in makeshift shelters this monsoon.

What is even more worrying is that the National Reconstruction Authority has stated that it would take at least two more years to rebuild all the schools that were damaged by the April and May 2015 quakes. This means students, who have been deprived of proper learning environment for over three years, will have to brace for more hardship, which is expected to affect their studies and even encourage them to drop out.

Most of the schools that are yet to be rebuilt are operating classes in temporary learning centres, with tin sheets working as roofs and chunks of mud working as walls. “Over the years, rain, heat, heavy wind and other weather conditions have deteriorated the quality of these makeshift classrooms and they are no longer ideal for housing students,” said Keshab Subedi, a teacher at Mahendragram Secondary School at Sundal, Bhaktapur. 

Teachers are worried that they might have to cancel many classes this monsoon, as many temporary learning centres are likely to encounter problems such as water seepage, causing inconvenience to both teachers and students. This, teachers said, could even increase dropout rates.

“We have, therefore, started conducting classes in the building that was damaged by the earthquake,” said Subedi. “This is quite risky, but we don't have any option.”

Schools that are still operating classes in temporary learning centres are witnessing a drop in the number of students. Thuli Brahmayani Primary School at Chyamasing, Bhaktapur, is a case in point. “Many of our students have joined nearby schools, as we don't have proper classrooms,” said a teacher of the school without disclosing his identity.

The earthquake damaged or destroyed 7,923 schools in 32 districts across the country, according to the NRA. It took almost a year to start reconstruction of these schools. Since then 3,786 schools have been rebuilt, a mere 48 per cent of the total school buildings damaged or destroyed by the quakes. Of these schools, 2,680 were rebuilt by the government, 22 as turnkey projects supported by the Chinese and the US governments, and remaining 1,084 by international and domestic non-governmental organisations. Most of the schools that have so far been rebuilt had suffered partial damage and contain four to eight classrooms, according to the Central Level Project Implementation Unit (Education) of the NRA.

“We will complete reconstruction of the remaining schools within two years,” said NRA Joint Secretary Krishna Prasad Dawadi. 

Joint Secretary of Ministry of Education Baikuntha Aryal said, “Majority of the temporary learning centres were built to last for two to three years.” The condition of many temporary learning centres is rapidly deteriorating, as roofs are leaking and walls have developed cracks. But the government has no plan to provide additional budget to improve their condition.