Nepal: “I am no longer living in fear of an earthquake!” -from Nepal, eight months after the disaster

In Dhading District, located west of Kathmandu, AAR Japan has been building temporary learning centers at schools where the buildings were destroyed or damaged by the earthquake that hit Nepal April 2015. In early December 2015, a temporary learning center, the 26th and final in a series to be constructed in the southern part of the District, was completed, and the handover ceremony was organized.

Wishing for many children to come to school

A temporary schoolhouse, built with bamboo immediately after the earthquake, remained at the site of Himalchuli Primary School in Goganpani Village (photo below).
As the school building was constructed with much importance placed on speed, it was consequently poorly protected against rain and chilly in the winter. Therefore, a new schoolhouse was deemed to be necessary.

The previous temporary schoolhouse of Himalchuli Primary School was made with bamboo
(All photos including this are from Goganpani Village, Dhading District, December 5th, 2015.)

AAR built a temporary learning center using steel beams and bricks on the site of the previous schoolhouse, which had collapsed, as it had been constructed using just stones and mud. The center’s floor is now covered with concrete to withstand conditions even in the rainy season (photo below).

 The temporary learning center newly constructed by AAR Japan.
 As the floor is made of concrete, pupils’ feet do not become muddy on rainy days.

The handover ceremony was held on December 5th 2015, and was attended by special guest Ms. Morgan De Santo, Program Manager of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), AAR’s cooperation partner, which made a generous donation to the emergency assistance of earthquake survivors.

At the handover ceremony. The second from the left is Ms. De Santo of IRC.
 Next to her is Takeshi IKEDA of AAR Japan Nepal Office
and Chiaki FURUKAWA of AAR Japan Tokyo Headquarters.

 Ms. De Santo, together with Takeshi IKEDA, resident staff member at AAR Nepal Office, was given a blessing with “tilaka,” a mixture of rice grain, as a symbol of wealth, symbolized by a red powder being placed on the forehead.

 Ms. De Santo, being given the blessing from the principal with “tilaka” on the forehead.
Many people, including the principal, parents of pupils, and officers of the Educational Bureau, gathered together for the ceremony. A performance was given by a group of graduates, as they sang their original song of thanks, accompanied by a “Madal,” a Nepalese drum.

Graduates of the school singing a song of thanks with a “Madal”, a Nepalese drum. 
The entire school extended to us their warmest welcome.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony was then performed and the pupils rushed in to see the new classroom with an air of excitement.

Pupil rushed into the classroom.  On the left, at the back, is principal, Ms. Indira.

The children from one of the poorest villages in Nepal, where indigenous people called “Chepang” live, come to the school. Many of them are obliged to do farm work or help with housework instead of attending school, and so the number of these children coming to the school total no more than 37 at present.

 When we arrived at the site for the ceremony, many pupils and their parents had already gathered together.

The principal, Ms. Indira said, “As the new schoolhouse is now built, I believe that more pupils will come to the school.”  The temporary learning centers built by AAR Japan are expected to inspire the adults and help them to understand the importance of education.

“I am no longer living in fear of an earthquake.  I want to continue studying at any rate.”

In November, AAR started with the construction of 19 temporary learning centers in the northern part of Dhading District. It takes three hours by car from Kathmandu to the District capital of Dhadingbesi, and from there it requires a further bumpy ride of one and a half hours, on unpaved mountainous roads, to reach Tripureswor Village.

The rocky and bumpy mountainous road to Tripureswor Village (December 6th, 2015).
As Ankhu Primary School in the village was severely damaged by the earthquake, it was forced to merge with the nearby high school, Achane Higher Secondary School, which had also been in short supply of classrooms due to its large number of students.  
The school building of Ankhu Primary School, damaged by the earthquake
 (Tripureswor Village, Dharding District, December 6th, 2015).

AAR, therefore, decided to construct two temporary learning centers on the site of Ankhu Primary School.  These centers, once constructed, will be used by 222 high school students.

The school building of Ankhu Primary School (left) and a temporary learning center
under construction by AAR Japan (right).

Ms. Archna (age 15), who wants to become a nurse in the future, had her house destroyed by the earthquake. At the time of the quake she was at home and, although she managed to flee from the house uninjured, she felt terrified. Looking at the temporary learning center under construction, she said with smile, “This building seems to be safer for any future earthquake!”

 Asked what kind of school buildings she wants, Archna responded without hesitation,
“earthquake-resistant buildings!” (December 8th, 2015)
Even now, eight months after the earthquake, many houses are left in ruins and without any repair work being undertaken, in this village in the northern part of the District, where emergency relief support has hardly been able to get through. 

Destroyed houses are left unrepaired in the village (December 6, 2015).
There are huts built out of tin that are being used as temporary dwellings, but many village people are now left being unable  to afford to rebuild their houses.

 Huts built of tin for temporary dwellings are often seen. 
Ms. Archna, whose house has collapsed, lives in a hut like this (December 8th, 2015).

When asked about the situation following the earthquake, Mr. Namarag (age 18), a student at Achane Higher Secondary School, replied, “All the village people suffered.  It is difficult to explain exactly what happened at that time,” and then held his tongue.  But when asked about future dreams, he said, “Before, I was in fear of an earthquake, but now, I am not afraid any more.  Although I have not yet decided what to do with my life in the future, I wish to continue studying at any rate, and become capable of doing anything, so as to be able to respond properly to whatever happens.”

Mr. Namarag, asserting “I am not afraid of earthquakes any more”. (December 8, 2015)

While there remain signs of serious damage caused by the earthquake, it is hoped that the temporary learning centers constructed by AAR Japan will be of assistance to the children, who hold the destiny of the future in their hands.
Rena KATO, AAR Japan Tokyo Headquarters
Rena KATO has been in charge of public relations and supporters’ services
at AAR Tokyo Headquarters since October, 2014. After graduating from university,
she was involved in journalism at a television station. Having left the station,
she then stayed for some time in the United Kingdom and France, before joining AAR.

Japanese-English translation by Yukio Kiuchi
English editing by Richard Whale

This article has been translated by volunteers as part of the AAR Japan’ s Volunteer Programme. Their generous contributions allow us to spread our activities and ideas globally, through an ever-growing selection of our reports from the field.