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Kathmandu, Nepal – Two years after the 7.8 earthquake devastated Nepal, thousands of students are returning to new purpose-built schools, thanks to generous donations from the public. While progress has at times been slow, the rebuild effort remains underway and hundreds of schools are now under construction or completed.
Global child rights organisation Plan International – which has played an integral part in ensuring children’s safety and education during the immediate aftermath and in the ongoing recovery phase – is calling for the international community to continue supporting Nepal, given the sheer scale of the disaster and the huge remaining gaps in the reconstruction.
As many as 8,000 schools were destroyed in the twin earthquakes, disrupting education for some one million children.
“There is still so much more work to do for the children of Nepal. We urge governments and donors to prioritise the education and protection needs of children, so that they can study in safe and earthquake-proof classrooms,” says Sven Coppens, Country Director for Plan International.
Over the last two years, Plan International Nepal has raised €27.7 million to help 293,365 individuals – including 120,279 children - impacted by the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal.
“While families are making remarkable progress, and rebuilding is underway, Nepal’s recovery is far from complete. The affected areas are geographically very difficult environments to work in and we must rebuild in a careful and disaster-proof manner. This, amongst other factors, is why progress to date has been slower than expected, says Coppens.
Plan International supported more than 24,000 school children to regain immediate access to a quality education by building 326 temporary schools.
Since then, Plan International has built 12 new schools (with an additional 10 underway) that are inclusive for children with disabilities and purpose-built to withstand future disasters. The schools also teach disaster-preparedness. The 22 new schools will enable 5,140 children to continue their education in a safe and permanent environment.
“Our new school will have a computer lab, library and will support children with disabilities. The school is also bigger with more outside space. In case there is another earthquake, we will have somewhere safe to go, so that all of the students can remain together,” says Manju, a 14-year-old girl from Dolakha district, Nepal.
“Building schools is not just about providing permanent structures, it’s about building an overall culture of safety and preparedness, and ensuring community ownership of these schools. We cannot prevent natural disasters, but we can try to mitigate risk as much as possible. Our aim is to help communities make Nepal disaster-proof,” says Coppens.
“Plan International is also focusing on influencing policy and legislative change. We supported the development of a safe schools’ policy, currently under review by the Ministry of Education. We hope this will become part of a nation-wide school curriculum,” says Coppens.
Plan International has been at the forefront of the humanitarian response in areas devastated by the earthquake, including Dolakha, Sindhupalchowk, Makwanpur and Sindhuli districts, supporting children and adults with life-saving shelter, food and water and immediate access to temporary learning centres and protection spaces.
“Plan International is committed to Nepal for the long term. We will continue supporting communities to ensure that families have access to permanent homes, jobs are readily available and girls and boys – including those with a disability – are able to study in permanent, disaster-resilient schools,” says Coppens.