New learning centers give children a safe place to study after Nepal quake

This story was first published on Rescue.org by the International Rescue Committee on Sep. 30, 2015

Children whose clasrooms were damaged by the powerful earthquake that struck Nepal in April
 are now heading to class in new learning centers built by IRC partner AAR Japan,
which also provided school uniforms and school supplies. Photo: AAR Japan

 On April 25 Srijana Dhital was spending a Saturday morning at home with her family when the walls started shaking violently around them.

They ran out of the house just before it collapsed, relieved to have escaped injury. But their home in the Himalayan foothills was gone — one of hundreds of thousands of houses destroyed in the largest earthquake disaster in Nepal’s history.

As she and her family rigged up a shelter for themselves using sheets of tin and plastic tarps, Srijana, a 21-year-old teacher, realized how drastically her life had changed in an instant.

Even the primary school where she worked in the village of Jeevanpur had been heavily damaged by the powerful tremor.

Srijana Dital (second from left) is a primary school teacher in Jeevanpur, a village
in Nepal's Dhading province that is close to the epicenter of the April earthquake. Photo: AAR Japan
“Just after the earthquake, I felt that it is the end of my life,” Srijana said, recalling how she grew anxious and depressed in the days after the disaster as aftershocks rattled her village. She worried about her students and wondered when it would be safe for them to go back to school.

Five months later the children still seem traumatized by the earthquake, Srijana says, and many of them have been afraid to return to class. Because of the structural damage to the school building, most classes are being held outside under tarps, even as winter approaches and aftershocks continue to shake the region.

“Children need school in a safe environment,” Srijana explained, noting that she is especially concerned about the many students in the village who are from poor families. “They need to study for their future.”

Built with durable, flexible building materials — including steel pipe and corrugated steel sheeting —
 the new learning center in Jeevanpur was designed to to be earthquake-resistant. Photo: AAR Japan

Now they’ll have that chance, in a temporary learning center sturdily built of steel-pipe framing, bricks, and bright-blue corrugated tin sheeting. Completed this month, it’s one of 26 learning centers  the International Rescue Committee’s partner AAR Japan has been building across the hard-hit Dhading region since the earthquake struck. All of the learning centers will be finished by October and ready for students to head to class with new school supplies and school uniforms provided by AAR.

Srijana and her neighbors are thankful that the village’s children now have somewhere safe to learn. “It is not like temporary, but strong enough to be able to use as a school for years,” Srijana said of the new learning center, which was designed to be quake-resistant.

“I am feeling greatly relieved that children do not need to give up their study.”

In the immediate aftermath of the April 25 quake, aid workers from the IRC’s partner AAR Japan rushed food and emergency supplies to thousands of people in remote communities. They remain on the ground in Nepal to help with their recovery.