Infrastructure Paves Way for Quality Education
Helping schools in need of safe learning spaces
Sindhupalchowk, Nepal – The 2015 Gorkha earthquake destroyed the BP Adarsha Primary School located in Sunkoshi of Sindhupalchowk District. For five months thereafter, students were forced to study under the shade of a tree.
The school accommodates 20 students studying in grades 1-4. With support from local organizations, the school built a temporary bamboo structure to move the classrooms indoors. As the name suggests, these temporary structure are only intended as an immediate emergency-relief measure. While the students now had an enclosed learning space, unfavourable weather conditions continues to hamper regular classes.
Fast forward to three years later, the classes since has shifted from open grounds to under a safe learning space. The transitional learning centre is one of the 250 structures built with the support from the United States Agency for International Development through the Emergency Education Response for Nepal project. The project seeks to restore education in post-earthquake Nepal until permanent reconstruction catches up and is being implemented in nine earthquake-affected districts by UNICEF and other local organizations and in partnership with school management committees, local government and communities.
Head teacher Chet Kumari Basnet is beyond relieved. Her students are protected from the sun, rain and wind as they sit on thick comfortable carpet in a classroom with solid walls, roof and a fan instead of rock-hard grounds
“The transitional structure has helped me shift focus from providing basic shelter for the students, to improving the quality of education that is provided in the school,” Mrs. Basnet said.
Mrs Basnet is now free from the worries of providing for basic classroom facilities to her students. She can commit all her time into implementing child-friendly teaching methods in her school.
“Instead of scolding students for not showing interest in the classroom, I’d rather ask the teachers to understand why they are not motivated. For example, they might not have had enough to eat during breakfast or they may be upset with someone who said something negative about them,” she said. “And if they want to be out of the classroom, instead of continuing with the class I’d rather involve them in other active activities like dancing, and painting outdoors and then charm them back in to the classroom.”
Restoration of education in post-earthquake Nepal is gaining momentum. New school buildings are being built by the government with support from national and international development partners such as USAID and UNICEF. However many smaller schools like BP Adarsha continue to wait for construction to begin. In the meantime, a lot of smaller schools have been merged with larger schools in an effort to restore education of all affected students in a community.
However, for BP Adarsha, the merger was not an option.
“The nearest school with which BP Adarsha could merge is about two hours away,” says Mrs. Basnet. “The everyday travel would have been very difficult for my students who are between the ages of three to seven.”
For this reason, BP Adarsha, kept its classroom running out in the open and then in temporary bamboo structure.
If BP Adarsha didn’t exist, children coming from the community would have to walk two hours to get to the nearest school. It is not an option for students as young as four-year-olds, which is why small schools like this with low student numbers cannot merge and need infrastructure to continue.
Such is the situation of many small schools in earthquake-affected districts of Nepal and it presents a gap that needs to be urgently filled. With this rationale, USAID and UNICEF are supporting smaller schools with up to 20 students with transitional learning structures so that no school is left behind on basic infrastructure, and no child is left without access to a safe learning space and education. The project also has provision for educational and recreational materials as well as capacity enhancement of teachers on disaster risk reduction.
Even though the structures are intended to last for up to five years, Mrs Basnet, believes that with good care and upkeep the structure could last far more than a decade.
So far, 160 transitional learning structures have been built in nine earthquake-affected districts benefiting the education of students.