Dhading District, located west of the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, was devastated 5 months ago when a 7.9 magnitude earthquake shook the country with unimaginable power. Dhading District was hard-hit by the disaster with many buildings destroyed or damaged, including school buildings, and is now lacking in classrooms. A number of schools have continued to operate after removing the damaged walls, but the environment is still much too dangerous for children to be studying in. Therefore, for the next 10 years, AAR Japan will build temporary learning centers with steel beams, brick walls, and tin roofing as an initiative in working toward the goal of supplying usable classrooms for Dhading District.
We plan to build a total of 26 buildings, each designed to have 2 classrooms, across 17 schools where dangerous school buildings are currently being used. We have already been able to provide 12 buildings / 24 classrooms to the local School Management Committee. Students who were studying in a dangerous environment now can study at ease. Also, schools where multiple grade levels were forced to study together because of a lack of classrooms, are now able to run more smoothly. Once the 26 buildings / 52 clasrooms are completed, 2,080 children will be able to study in a safe environment. Subeksha (age 6), a 1st grade student at Kalika Primary School, who wants to be a doctor when she grows up, said to us, "Thank you for building us a new school."
The biggest challenge for this aid project was acquiring land to build the temporary learning centers. Flat land is necessary to build a school but such level land is hard to find in mountainous Nepal. Many schools have been prohibited from using their classrooms after a government inspection deemed them "dangerous". These dangerous classrooms cannot be removed and are awaiting repairs by the government, but it is unclear when such repairs will be completed. To meet the needs of these schools, many aid groups built easy-to-build, simple school buildings on the available land using tin sheets and bamboo. However, since entering the rainy season, water leaks have made some of these buildings unfit for school. Additionally, AAR Japan cannot remove these buildings to build the temporary learning centers. This being the situation, with a heavy heart, AAR Japan was not able to include some of the intended schools in this programme due to a lack of land.
While there are many hardships and concerns, I cannot help but smile when I see the children, despite experiencing trauma from the earthquake, now playing at the schools. During the handover ceremony of a temporary learning center at one of the primary schools, a boy who had lost both his parents to the earthquake performed a song for us. In my heart I could not help but feel pain at the sight of the young student singing with gratitude in his in spite of the difficulties he has and will face. Even when the learning centers are completed and the students are able to attend school again, the family members and friends they lost will not return. But it is my hope that the education received at these schools will empower these children and make their futures a little brighter.