The devastating earthquake in Nepal nearly a year ago flattened homes and school buildings in an instant.
Rebuilding has been just the opposite: frustratingly slow, bogged down by the powerful forces of government bureaucracy and an unofficial trade embargo by neighboring India, among other factors.
Nevertheless, The Santi School Project has signed agreements to renovate classrooms at eight different schools in Lalitpur and Dolakha districts, some of the areas hit hardest by the quake. Construction has begun and is expected to be completed by mid July.
All of these projects have been approved by engineers working in the Nepali government’s Department of Education. It requires that schools seeking funds to rebuild submit a damage assessment report as well as a project estimate.
Santi School has employed engineers to design earthquake-resilient buildings and monitor construction sites once work is under way. One major design change has been to require extra support around doors and window sills.
In some communities ravaged by the earthquake, skilled laborers are busy rebuilding their own homes and are not available to help with the local school. In those cases, schools have asked us to provide manpower.
Another hurdle has been the unofficial blockade at the India-Nepal border, which has choked trade and fuel supplies for months. That means the cost of building materials has increased, and transportation is much more expensive.
Despite those hurdles, the work is getting down and schools are in fact coming back to life. Our first earthquake renovation project has been completed: A $9,000 rebuild of four classrooms at Shringery Community Secondary School that benefitted 250 students. Recently, we inaugurated the new building with a ceremony that included the school administration, parent-teachers association, parents, students and social workers representing the deputy district education officer of Lalitpur district.
It’s wintertime in Nepal, and the harsh weather means life continues to be difficult for millions of Nepalis in rural areas living in temporary shelters made of bamboo and plastic.
More than nine months have passed since the devastating earthquake last spring, and many rural communities are still working to rebuild homes and schools. The government and large international charities have been slow to start up reconstruction work. A nationwide fuel crisis, precipitated by an “unofficial blockade” by India for nearly four months, has only exacerbated the problems.
Despite all this, we are proud to announce that we’re making strong progress renovating two classrooms at Shree Devi Lower Secondary School, in the Nallu village development committee of Lalitpur district. The school has 138 students, from kindergarten through grade eight.
Students there -- like so many children in areas where the earthquakes destroyed or damaged school buildings -- have been studying in a temporary learning center made of bamboo with a roof of plastic sheets, which does not do an adequate job of protecting them from the elements. Thankfully, we expect they will move inside their new classrooms very soon.
Engineers along with the vice district education officer for Lalitpur conducted a monitoring visit at the school in mid January and approved of the construction work. The vice principal of the school has been particularly helpful in overseeing the renovations.
This is one of 14 different schools that we plan to provide earthquake renovations this year. We expect that many of these projects will break ground in the next month or so.
Thank you for your support to help make these projects possible.
After more than six months of planning renovations, meeting with community members and school leaders, and negotiating with government officials, earlier this month we officially received the green light for projects at 15 different schools damaged by last April’s earthquakes.
Following the approval by Nepal’s Department of Education, work will begin soon to rebuild classroom buildings at 14 schools and repair a toilet block at another school.
Overall, we expect these projects to benefit 3,000 students and 150 teachers in four different districts of Nepal that were hit hardest by the earthquakes.
Most of the schools we’re helping have faced severe overcrowding since the earthquakes, and some even conduct classes in half-destroyed buildings. They were left with no other option once temporary classrooms provided by charity groups last spring were destroyed by the monsoon rains in July. Their bamboo frames and tarpaulin roofs proved no match for the elements.
Now, winter temperatures mean that many children, studying in the open air, are getting sick. But new classrooms could be built in as little as six weeks, if local community members are available to help with the work.
(A photo below documents one such school, Kali Devi Secondary School in Lalitpur district. The walls of one classroom building were removed after being damaged by the tremors. Students attended class in the space even during the monsoon rains.)
Last Sunday, to kick off the renovation projects, we conducted an orientation program in Kathmandu for principals and chairpersons of school management committees. Representatives from 13 of our 15 partner schools attended, sharing their stories about how their schools and communities coped in the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes.
Thank you for your support of our earthquake reconstruction work. Look for more updates soon on our progress.