26 Feb - 3 Mar 2016 #797

Lessons for the future

With new classrooms in place, attendance levels are picking up at schools in Sindhupalchok.
Yu Wei Liew

BUILDING BETTER: Shree Janahit Lower Secondary School in Banskharka VDC of Sindhupalchok was damaged during the April earthquake last year.

In last April’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake that shook Nepal, Sindhupalchok was one of the worst hit areas, with the highest number of casualties reported in a single district. There were 3,557 deaths and an estimated 66,636 houses were destroyed or damaged, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, landslides blocked off the narrow roads leading to villages in the hills, hampering relief efforts.

However, some organisations have been working tirelessly to help the villagers rebuild their lives. Childreach Nepal and the Ministry of Education have teamed up to build a total of 100 earthquake-resistant classrooms in Sindhupalchok, sealed by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding. Also assisting in the effort is Miyamoto International, a Japanese earthquake management company that is providing the technical expertise needed to construct the classrooms.

On 4 February, their collective efforts across diverse sectors came into fruition with the ceremonial handover of the first 20 completed classrooms to three schools in Banskharka VDC: Shree Bhim Bidya Ashram Secondary School, Shree Bal Bikash Primary School and Shree Janahit Lower Secondary School.

Each classroom can accommodate 60-80 students and has a lightweight steel framework designed to withstand shaking in the event of an earthquake. The exterior cladding of PVC-coated steel has a minimum lifespan of 30 years, and is insulated to be moisture-resistant, making it suitable for Nepal’s climate even during the monsoon season.

Childreach Nepal and the Ministry of Education have teamed up with Miyamoto International to build 100 new earthquake resistant classrooms in the district.

Already, attendance levels are picking up. Immediately after the earthquake, dropout rates soared to 32 per cent across the three schools, as securing access to food and water took precedence over attending lessons. Now, 400 out of the 500 students enrolled are back in the classrooms, with numbers expected to rise with the start of the new academic term in April.

The day after the handover ceremony, a 5.5 magnitude aftershock swept through the Valley, with the epicenter in Sindhupalchok. But the newly built classrooms passed their first test and remained standing, a testament to their sturdy design.

Earthquake rebuilding efforts should take a leaf from this successful collaboration, as it finds long lasting solutions in a region that is consistently hit hard by disasters. Because of the use of durable materials and the sharing of strategies with experienced counterparts, international cooperation has proved to be a boon in getting children in Sindhupalchok back to schools.

Read also:

Sindhupalchok’s sorrow, Bhrikuti Rai

Teacher’s tragedy, Cynthia Choo

Lesson still to be learnt, Sonia Awale

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