Children in the UK are getting ready to go back to school excited, refreshed and full of energy after their summer break (their parents are probably quite relieved to be waving them off too!). Not so in Nepal. Nepal's school year starts in May, but with 30,000 classrooms destroyed and many schools still closed since the devastating earthquakes that struck earlier this year, going back to school isn’t as straightforward for children living in a country where people are trying to rebuild their lives.
Narayani wants a safe place to study
12-year-old Narayani is already back at school but says it’s not the same anymore. She says: “I love going to school, because it takes my mind off things and I can focus on my dream of becoming a teacher. But since the earthquake, school has been really different.
“We can’t study in our classrooms anymore, because the walls and the ceiling have collapsed. The iron frame of the school building is still standing, but now we study in little shelters. There are thirty-four students in my class, and each class gets one shelter. We used to have so much fun studying, but now it’s like we can’t have fun anymore. We’re all so afraid of landslides coming, or another earthquake. I would be happy if there were a nice safe place where I could study.
ActionAid is building 28 temporary learning centers in Rasuwa, Kavre and Dolakha districts so that children like Narayani can have a safe space to go to school until permanent new schools can be built.
Classes are different since the earthquakes
14-year-old Shobhit, also from Sindupalchowk, is also back at school but is finding it hard to cope with the changes since the earthquakes. “Thankfully school has reopened now”, he says. “All the students in my school have been attending since the first day it re-opened. There have been some changes though. There are now 51 students in my class, whereas before we had around 30 a class.
“We can’t study the whole school day either. Many of the teachers are still busy helping to build rooms or managing school affairs, so we can’t study all of our subjects. Also whenever it looks like it’s going to rain, the teachers have to send us home early, to protect us from possible landslides.
“The first thing we learnt when we went back to school was to do with the earthquake. We were taught what to do during an earthquake, learnt all about the facts of what had happened and we also shared our experiences with our friends.”
Preparing children for an earthquake
As well as supporting communities after emergencies happen, ActionAid focuses on disaster preparedness - helping people learn the skills they need to prepare for disasters and know how to maximise their chance of survival. Nepal is no exception. Before the earthquake, we trained schoolchildren so they knew what to do if an earthquake happened, and we will continue to do this to help children like Shobhit know what to do in the future. Watch the 2-minute video of the training here.
The children featured in the video all survived the earthquakes and many helped family members to stay safe too.
Looking forward to going back to school
Someone who will soon be going to school in one of the temporary learing centres we’ve built is Jagadish, 16, from Sindupalchowk district. He is excited about the new school term and said: “I want to study science. When I become a scientist I’ll invent something new that can help other people.”
Realising how tough things are for children in Nepal is a poignant reminder of how lucky we are in the UK to not be affected by natural disasters like earthquakes.
If you’re a teacher looking for new teaching resources for the next school year, why not download our free ‘Nepal: Back to school’ pack? Full of colourful factsheets, slideshows, teacher’s notes and a team-building exercise, it’s got everything you need to introduce your class to children in Nepal and learn about the challenges that they’re facing.
Read about more children in Nepal:
Photos: NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati/ActionAid.