Dhulikhel, Nepal - Fourteen-year-old Pratima Khadka is all smiles when she describes her new school. “It’s beautiful, strong and has modern facilities,” she says. “The teachers regularly use multimedia projectors in the classrooms, and it has made learning more fun and interesting.”
Khadka and her family, like millions of others, were affected by the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal in 2015. The 7.8 magnitude quake, one of the biggest in Nepal’s history, resulted in the tragic loss of life of around 8,000 people. Close to 8,000 schools and 30,000 classrooms were damaged or destroyed, directly affecting the education of 1.5 million children.
“Limiting the lost education time for these students, and returning them to quality schools built to better withstand future disasters, were the goals of the school reconstruction project supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB),” says Naresh Giri, a senior project officer at ADB’s Nepal Resident Mission.
Keeping students in school
With her school badly damaged, Khadka continued learning at temporary learning classrooms (TLC) in her school premises. The iron and tarpaulin shelter was cramped and had only basic conditions. “While the TLCs did provide opportunities to continue learning, we could see children were dropping out, especially girls coming from far off areas,” says Lokendra Dhakal, Headmaster of Sanjiwani Secondary School where Pratima studies. “We knew we had to build the permanent structures quickly in order to retain the students as well get back to the pre-earthquake enrollment numbers.”
After more than 4 years since the fatal earthquake, Prime Minister of Nepal K.P. Sharma Oli handed over the newly reconstructed Sanjiwani Secondary School in Dhulikhel to the community at a ceremony on 24 April 2019. Since then, Khadka and her classmates have been attending classes in the newly constructed school buildings. “We feel safe in the new building, as we know it is built to withstand tremors,” she says.
After the reconstruction, Sanjiwani Secondary School has 32 new classrooms, a 12-room hostel for out-of-town students, a library, and separate toilet blocks for girls and boys. The buildings were constructed using structures and materials resistant to earthquakes and designed to assist persons with disabilities. To improve science and ICT education, ICT and science laboratories with sufficient equipment were also built.
“The new school is better in every way than the old school destroyed by the quake. Teachers, students and parents are all very happy. Enrolments has increased by almost 30%,” says Dhakal.
Building disaster preparedness
Sanjiwani Secondary School is one of the 154 schools reconstructed under the ADB-supported Earthquake Emergency Assistance Project (EEAP). The project also supported schools to prepare their own school disaster risk management plans.
The teachers and students of the Sanjiwani Secondary School take an active role in disaster risk reduction and they practice safety drills during assembly. “We noticed that children have taken the important lesson of disaster risk preparedness to their family and the community. I think we are much better prepared as a community to face another natural disaster in the future,” says Dhakal.
“A better reconstruction process can strengthen a country’s resilience to natural disasters,” says Mukhtor Khamudkhanov, ADB’s Country Director for Nepal. “The reconstruction of the schools was an opportunity to build back better. All the schools reconstructed after the earthquake with ADB support have followed better standards, building norms, and amenities. These schools are resilient, safe and with modern facilities and provide an improved and safe learning environment for over 60,000 children.”
The EEAP financed the rebuilding of schools, roads, and district-level government buildings, for strengthening resilience to future disasters. ADB is supporting the government’s efforts to put thousands of children back into schools, return vital government services and infrastructure to earthquake-affected communities, and create jobs and income for families by repairing critical road networks. The EEAP is jointly financed by ADB, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Government of Nepal.
A total of 162 reconstructed schools, including 8 schools funded by the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, have been handed over to the school management committees.
ADB will continue its school reconstruction work under the Disaster Resilience of Schools Project approved in September 2018. The new project brings ADB’s support to Nepal reconstruction to $382 million. It will support reconstruction of 174 schools, upgrade school infrastructure, and strengthen institutions for disaster risk management planning.
By Binita Shah Khadka, Senior External Relations Officer at ADB's Nepal Resident Mission, on adb.org - 24 April 2020