Helping to rebuild a community through education
by Lisa Lyons, Educate the Children
It’s hard to believe that only seven months have passed since the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal. Since then, there have been another 7.2-magnitude quake and numerous aftershocks (some quite powerful), countless mudslides and landslides, washed-out bridges and roads, and more recently the serious fuel shortage affecting transportation and people’s ability to heat their homes and cook their food.
Even with so much working against them, the Nepali villagers whom Educate the Children (ETC) is proud to serve are firmly committed to building healthier and better lives for themselves and their families. Ensuring access to quality education for their children is among their top priorities, and ETC is dedicated to making that possible, as we have been for more than a quarter of a century.
The first quake struck only a week into the new school year, which in Nepal starts in April. The spring quakes destroyed virtually every building in our current project area in the Dolakha District, including all 30 schools with which we currently work. You can see a “before” and “after” photo essay of the damage to several of these schools by clicking here.
In the unsettled and extremely difficult post-quake conditions, there was a real risk of children’s educations being permanently disrupted. Families were tempted to feel that there was nothing left for them in their villages, and to consider migrating to the city, where their children could be expected to work for pay (or to be responsible for domestic chores while their parents work) instead of attending school. Early marriage was already a noticeable issue in these communities, and this practice frequently spikes after a crisis when families seek immediate stability, thus usually putting a halt to any further education for the child brides and grooms. Issues such as these are far more likely to affect the children of impoverished families from marginalized communities who form ETC’s target population.
It was therefore very important that ETC act quickly to ensure that the more than 3,000 children enrolled at these 30 schools could resume their interrupted educations as soon as was feasible. And we did:
- We provided corrugated metal sheets for two or more temporary classrooms per school. Construction was begun in June, and classes could resume as of late June or July. Other NGOs and agencies have supported additional temporary classrooms at some of these schools, but overall it’s still not enough space, and in some cases classes are having to be combined and/or the teachers are having to take it in shifts to use the rooms. Although it’s not remotely ideal, it’s far better than having nowhere to hold classes at all.
- We provided classroom supplies and furnishings to replace those destroyed when buildings collapsed. These include desk and bench sets, white boards, puzzles, stationery items, first aid supplies, etc.
- We provided recreational materials for children’s use during recess periods at school – balls, jump ropes, badminton sets, etc. These items are important because they allow children to lose themselves in play and feel “normal” again, even if only for a while.
There is much work yet to be done. The temporary classrooms will surely be in use for quite some time – possibly a year or more in many cases – and must be made sturdier and more weatherproof. More classroom supplies and materials will be needed, and permanent buildings will eventually need to be constructed to quake-resistant standards.
As of the summer months, ETC has recommenced our usual professional development activities to support teachers and administrators through training and networking opportunities, and held three group discussions with parents of young children to answer questions about and promote pre-primary education enrollment. Our plans for the near future include facilitating significant physical improvements to the temporary classrooms at seventeen primary schools, and providing additional supplies and materials for eighteen or more other schools in villages where we worked in years past. In short, we will continue to do as much as we can to ensure that thousands of Nepali children have access to educational opportunities, at both the primary and secondary levels, and that they will therefore have the best possible chance to overcome the odds and complete their educations.
Educate the Children’s mission is to work with women and children in Nepal to improve health, welfare, and self-sufficiency by building skills that families can pass down to later generations. Through our children’s education, women’s empowerment, and sustainable agriculture programs, we provide training and resources to help thousands of marginalized and impoverished people make better lives for themselves. For more information about ETC’s education work, please visit our photo essay by clicking here. Photo credits on this page: Rajanee Kunwar, ETC Documentation Officer.