ENSURING AT LEAST SOME SCHOOL LESSONS: OUR TENT SCHOOLS AS AN INTERIM SOLUTION
The government had actually planned to open all intact schools in the country again on May 15, but this was just unrealistic after the second earthquake: Many more school buildings that had cracks from the first eruption, had now collapsed. Unthinkable how many more victims could have been there if schools that had already been opened had collapsed over the heads of the children. Due to the large number of schools in the mountains of Chitwan which were destroyed by the earthquake, we decided to build up several tent schools as an interim solution for the children. One of them: the ‘Hattisude Primary School’ in the district of Lothar. The government building was severely damaged by the quake and it was no longer usable. We had chosen especially this school because about 100 Tamang and Chepang children attended that school. Both belong to ethnic minorities who make their living in the mountains of Chitwan under the yoke of poverty. This school previously did not belong to our project area, but it is located relatively close so that our team in Chitwan could take care of it.
Since the school and its associated villages were a 6-hour walk in the north of Piple Highway, it was clear that the aid would not arrive very quickly, if it would arrive at all. Therefore, our Back-to-Life-team showed the villagers how to secure a stable position of the tent and how to build it up so that it can withstand the floods of the monsoon. The necessary second tent was build up by the villagers themselves and our team controlled it afterwards. Additionally, we constructed toilet facilities separated for boys and girls. It was our hope that this region could become a kind of ‚Role Model’ that could be easily copied by others to continue school despite the destroyed buildings: The acquisition-costs are low, and all materials are available on the market. All children had made terrible experiences and they had endured so much. This made it even more urgent to have a school: so that they could exchange experiences, play, read, learn and laugh again.
HOW CAN YOU LEARN WHEN EVERYTHING IS DESTROYED? A PRIMARY SCHOOL IN NEED
After the earthquake Dikendra and Achyut heard of the plight in Mandredhunga, 75km north-west of Kathmandu. On the phone the headmaster, Mr. Arjun Aryal, described the situation as follows: ‘All three buildings of our primary school have been completely or partially destroyed. With the help of the villagers we could set up two improvised classrooms which were made of straw mats and tarpaulins as a temporary solution to ensure that the lessons wouldn’t be cancelled for too long. Together with the destroyed houses all school supplies of the children were buried, and most families have no money for the necessary new pens, notebooks or books. The school lost all its teaching materials in the earthquake as well. I’m concerned that many children won’t come anymore if we can’t offer proper education soon.’
Therefore, Back to Life tried to act quickly: Our team organized that teaching and learning materials, toys, foot- and volleyballs and jump-robes and other things were transported from Chitwan to Mandredhunga. The children could hardly await the moment when their new school supplies were handed out to them. Everyone wanted to be the first, probably because they feared they would end up with nothing in their hands. ‘You all are going to get new school materials – we do have plenty of it,’ Dikendra reassured them before our team distributed the notebooks, pens, erasers, sharpeners and much more. The Headmaster received additional material for the upcoming six months. The distribution of the toys was also very exciting and joyful for the children and they immediately started to play with them. ‘This is the very first time that we play with a real football,’ one of the boys said. ‘So far we always used old crumpled socks as a ball.’ Right now, our employees are planning a new school building for Mandredhunga.