Nepal: Emergency Assistance to Earthquake Survivors -No Time Should be Lost in Restoring Schools where Children can Safely Learn

Schools reopened, but…

Following the major earthquake hit Nepal on April 25th, AAR Japan’s emergency response team has been involved in relief efforts in Tasarpu Village, in the mountainous Dhading District.  We have distributed food, tent materials and daily necessities to 1,299 families in the village from May 9th to 21st. We are now focusing our efforts on the assessment for the construction of temporary learning centers in the neighboring villages of Tahkre and Jeewanpur as well as in Tasarpu.

For about a month after the earthquake, all the schools in the disaster-stricken areas were closed. Some schools reopened on May 31st. During the school closure, engineers from the Educational Bureau of Dhading District assessed the safety of the school buildings in the district, marking buildings at risk of collapsing in red and ones deemed safe in green. In Tasarpu Village, where we delivered relief goods, there are 11 schools. Forty-five classrooms in seven out of 11 schools were marked red. Fifty-three classrooms in seven of ten schools in Tahkre Village and 52 classrooms in ten of 11 schools in Jeewanpur Village were also assessed to be dangerous. The local government has not announced any specific policies on how to deal with the classrooms labeled dangerous. Because of this lack of policy information, some schools continue using the classrooms marked red while others refrain from using them.

A highly dangerous school building with shear cracking visible on the entire surface of walls (A school in the 2nd Ward of Tasarpu Village, Dhading District, June 1st, 2015).
This red sticker is placed on the school buildings that are at risk of collapsing, according to the government safety assessment. (A school in the 9th Ward of Tasarpu Village, Dhading District, May 31st, 2015)

Children learn in classrooms that may collapse at any moment

Anjari Thapa, nine years old, is in fifth grade at a primary school in the 6th Ward, Tahkre Village. Her family consists of five members: her father, three sisters, and herself. Her house was destroyed by the earthquake on April 25th, but fortunately, her family was unharmed. They were able to build a temporary home for themselves by using bamboo as posts and tin sheets from their collapsed house. All the school supplies, including their school uniforms, shoes, stationary, and textbooks are under the debris, and so she goes to school in plain clothes and sandals. She is sharing textbooks with her friends. While the school was closed, she had nothing to do but play all day. She hoped the school would reopen soon. After her school reopened on May 31st, she told us “I am glad to see my friends again, but I feel anxious as another quake could strike any time.”

Anjari Thapa lost her school uniform and supplies in the earthquake. She goes to school in plain clothes (The 6th Ward of Tahkre Village, June 4th, 2015).
Tirta Kumari Shangathan, 24 years old, is a teacher at a primary and junior high school in the 9th Ward, Tasarpu Village. When her school reopened and her class reunited, she found that the children looked different. They were anxious and disconcerted, worried about aftershocks. Some complained about feeling as if the floor was shaking. The Government of Nepal decided to focus on caring for the children’s psychological trauma for a week before resuming classes. Accordingly, teachers were trained on how to provide counseling to children. The children looked happy during the counseling session using games. However, once the counseling was over, they seemed to remember the earthquake again. The teacher told us, “I feel uneasy having to come to work in a school building that has been declared unsafe by the government. I want the classrooms to be relocated to a safe location.” The need for construction of temporary school buildings is dire. We look forward to your continued support.

Female teachers at a school in the 9th Ward, Tasarpu Village (Tirta Kumari is pictured second from left) (The 9th Ward, Tasarpu Village, Dhading District, June 2nd, 2015)
Fukuro KAKIZAWA, from AAR Japan Tokyo Headquarters Office, interviews school officials (The 6th Ward, Jeewanpur Village, Dhading District, June 5th, 2015)
*This project has been supported by the generous donations made to AAR Japan and grants from Japan Platform (JPF).

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Fukuro KAKIZAWA, AAR Japan Tokyo Headquarters Office
Since joining AAR Japan Tokyo Office in May 2013, KAKIZAWA has been in charge of Afghanistan and Pakistan operations. He has also engaged in emergency assistance for Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013 and Vanuatu cyclone in 2015. He is 34 years old and was born in Tokyo. (profile as of the date of the article.)

Japanese-English translation by Ms. Masaharu Sato
English editing by Ms. Rachael Lea Rhine

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.