One week before the scheduled resumption of classes in a majority of schools in the earthquake-affected districts, alternatives have yet to be sought to the destroyed classrooms.
The Ministry of Education has announced to reopen schools from Sunday by setting up temporary learning centres (TLC) as it would take time to reconstruct permanent structures. Work has yet to begin in a majority of schools, including those in the Kathmandu valley, to set up temporary classrooms.
According to the ministry, 16,475 classrooms in 6,902 public schools teaching pre-primary to higher-secondary students were destroyed by the April 25 earthquake and its aftershocks. In addition, 7,266 classrooms have suffered major cracks while 12,613 have minor damages. The number of destroyed toilets is 1,436. Over 3 million students in 39 districts have been affected due to the tremors. Classes cannot be started in such schools without arranging for classrooms.
The Department of Education has released Rs25,000 for each damaged classroom for the temporary arrangement. It has asked the schools to use old zinc sheets if possible. Otherwise, they could use locally available materials such as bamboo, thatch and tarpaulin.
However, the parliamentary monitoring team has found that a majority of schools are yet to receive the money. The team has concluded that there is a slim chance of alternative arrangements being made by Sunday. “Work has yet to begin,” said Nepali Congress lawmaker Chandra Mohan Yadav, adding that the construction should be expedited as there is hardly two weeks before monsoon starts.
A majority of schools in the Capital have also not made new arrangements. Out of the total 1,015 TLCs needed in the Valley, only 25 have been constructed so far in Kathmandu and Lalitpur while Bhaktapur is yet to begin the task.
Officials maintain that teaching-learning activities will begin gradually from Sunday. “All the schools will reopen on Sunday even though it takes a few more days for classes to resume,” said Khagendra Nepal, spokesman for the Education Department.
Unicef warned earlier that at least 950,000 children in Nepal will not be able to return to school unless urgent action is taken to provide temporary learning spaces and repair damaged school buildings.