Nepal: 36 Earthquake-resistant Schools for the Children of the Melamchi Valley

Five years after the devastating earthquake of April 2015, Caritas Switzerland is successfully completing the reconstruction of 36 schools in Nepal. Assessments confirm that the programme has proved to be effective. In the Melamchi Valley, generations of children will safely enjoy their school lessons again - and so take a big step towards a better future. 

 

On April 25, 2015, not much was left of the school in Palchock. Says headmaster Netra Bahadur Bhuyel: "The main building had been flattened to the ground and the other two buildings were damaged. We saved whatever school materials we could.". Today, high up in the Nepalese mountains, there is once again much school activity: some 220 children are  again attending classes in the school complex with its bright yellow, earthquake-resistant main building. 

The Palchok secondary school in the particularly hard-hit Melamchi Valley is just one of 36 schools that Caritas Switzerland, jointly with Helvetas and with Swiss Solidarity support, have rebuilt between November 2015 and the end of 2019, using an earthquake-resistant configuration. For five schools on which work began in spring 2018, Helvetas and Caritas were able to count upon the support of the Swiss Red Cross. 

 

Video: Preventing a Lost Generation – Rebuilding Schools in Sindhupalchok

This story shows the challenges and joys involved in the efforts of Caritas Switzerland and its partner NGOs to rebuild 36 schools in some of the villages worst hit by the 2015 earthquake in Nepal.

 

Top Marks for Building Quality 

All schools were provided with access to clean drinking water and adequate sanitary facilities. The local community was closely involved in the rebuilding of the schools - parents, teachers and pupils had to ensure that the building land be community property, voted on the construction plans and were kept informed of building work progress. 

Caritas placed importance on delivering top quality in the construction of the earthquake-resistant buildings - and was able to achieve this pledge in full. This was the conclusion not only of an internal assessment, but also of various appraisals by construction experts from Swiss Solidarity and the Nepalese Government. The building quality gained widespread recognition from local stakeholders, who described it as an inspiring example of its kind. "Caritas has set new quality standards",  declared the Mayor of Melamchi municipality.  

It should be noted that the construction team had been faced with major challenges. In particular, unusually heavy and unpredictable monsoon rains in the 2018 season had made both the planning and construction processes difficult. The monsoon sometimes rendered the remote villages inaccessible; and in some cases, materials had to be brought to the building site through human porterage, which meant that the project duration had to be amended accordingly. 

 
 

Make the School a Safe Haven – Long-term as well 

Not only bring in help quickly, but also provide sustainable support - that was the Caritas Switzerland approach. Parents, teachers and pupils received training in the proper maintenance of the schools so that the buildings should remain in good condition for as long as possible.  

To enable pupils better to protect themselves in the event of future earthquakes, Caritas also ran courses on how to behave correctly should a natural disaster strike. In addition, we used creative new tools such as the WASH song to conduct successful hygiene awareness campaigns designed to help people avoid hygiene-related diseases. 

 

More than just Infrastructure: Facilitated School Attendance and Improved Life Circumstances  

After the earthquake, the risk of child labour increased, because affected families had to find ways to deal with the material losses. Caritas therefore conducted campaigns that emphasized the importance of education and the possible consequences of child labour and early marriage. In addition, families at particular risk were given individual support. As the internal assessment shows, this led slowly but steadily to raised awareness of the importance of education and increased attendance at school. 

An independent Swiss Solidarity effectiveness analysis too, has shown that the reconstruction work of Swiss Solidarity partner relief organizations in the Melamchi Valley is bearing fruit. A large majority of the beneficiaries surveyed felt that their living circumstances had improved significantly, both economically and socially. 

For many children in impoverished Sindhupalchok, a good school education is the only way out of poverty. Thanks to the 15m Swiss francs reconstruction by Caritas, not only 6 000 children who are currently of school age, but also countless classes who will come after them can take one step closer to this escape route.  

 

Emergency Aid Projects 

Caritas Switzerland was active in Nepal from the very first days after the earthquake. Prior to the reconstruction work, Caritas provided emergency aid and, jointly with Helvetas, built 200 temporary corrugated sheet classrooms for 6 500 schoolchildren so that their lessons would not be interrupted for an exceedingly long time. 

 

 
 
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