Schools in Nepal that had been affected by last month’s earthquake have finally reopened five weeks after the natural disaster took 8,600 lives and destroyed businesses and homes.
Over 32,000 classrooms were destroyed when the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the country on April 28. A second quake hit on May 12 with a 7.3 magnitude, which made efforts to rebuild extremely difficult.
“I am nervous. It is painful to see my classroom in rubble,” said Shasham Shrestha, a tenth grader at the Kuleswor Awas Secondary School in Kathmandu.
Until the school buildings can be rebuilt, children will attend classes in tarpaulin tents and makeshift cottages. On the first day back, children lined up against the collapsed walls around them as their teachers told their parents the temporary schools were safe and their children would be attending class on a regular basis.
At the sound of the school bell, children gathered to meditate for a few minutes. The practice was created in an effort to free children of the fear associated with surviving the earthquake and continuing aftershocks.
Education ministry official Hari Lamsal said opening the schools was important in order to show that life in the country was returning to normal. “We will construct temporary learning centres for schools because reconstruction of old buildings will take time,” Lamsal said.
So far, 137 temporary learning centers have been created by the government and aid agencies in order to allow 14,000 children to return to school in the country. Aid workers report 4,500 education centers will need to be built in order to help the almost 1 million students displaced due to the earthquake.
“Education can’t wait for all recovery and reconstruction,” Tomoo Hozumi, UNICEF representative in Nepal, told Reuters. “Opening of schools even in temporary centres has several benefits. It provides psychosocial recovery of children who are in stress, protects them from violence … the risk of being trafficked and their parents can go to work,” Hozumi said.
All together, UNICEF said $24.1 million was needed to build the learning centers, and provide training for over 19,000 teachers and volunteers on psychosocial support.
School authorities said studies will start back up in two weeks. Until then, children will play and interact with their teachers.
“Children who are out of school for prolonged periods of time after disaster are more likely to become dropouts. Amid such a reality, the resumption of schools is a great beginning, But the foremost priority should be given to setting-up of temporary learning centers as the schools have witnessed severe damage,” Hozumi told Xinhua.