Re-establishing Primary Education in Post-earthquake Rural Nepal
Project location: NEPAL, Sindhupalchok and Dhading
Project start date: October 2016 - Project end date: September 2018
Project number: 2016-040
The earthquakes and aftershocks which struck Nepal in April and May 2015 had an enormous impact on the country’s educational system, with a generation of children facing a serious threat to their future development in the face of major and ongoing disruption to schooling. Many rural schools were badly hit by the earthquake, with severe damage to buildings including the destruction of water and sanitation facilities vital to the functioning of schools, and the loss of essential Teaching and Learning Materials. Additionally, such disasters can be highly traumatic experiences for children, with lasting psychological impacts proving detrimental to children’s learning capacity and ability to undergo schooling.
With the generous support of the Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation, Pragya’s project ‘Re-establishing Primary Education in post-earthquake Nepal’ is rehabilitating schools and supporting children impacted by the disaster in Sindhupalchowk and Dhading, two of the worst earthquake-affected districts of Nepal, through measures to improve access to safe water and appropriate sanitation facilities with associated initiatives to improve hygiene behaviours, whilst also supporting teaching and learning in the classroom and beyond.
Nepal is located in the highly disaster-prone Himalayan belt, where effective disaster management has emerged as one of the most critical challenges in recent years, with a dramatic increase in the frequency and impact of rapid-onset disaster events affecting communities across the entire region. When disasters impact remote and isolated communities in the Himalayas, as did the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, rehabilitation can be an especially lengthy and challenging process due to difficult access and lack of infrastructure.
Education provision in rural Nepal was affected by serious problems even before the disaster struck, particularly in the most remote and mountainous districts. Although Nepal has made some progress on education in the past decade, the 2015 earthquake threatened to severely set back this progress. Damage to classrooms and loss of teaching materials, in combination with the destruction of sanitation facilities, meant a significant risk that many students would never return to education (with psychological trauma hampering the educational attainment of those that do return). Such permanent drop-out from education threatens a significant loss of future livelihood opportunity, and increases exposure to child labour, trafficking and other abuses.
Pragya is harnessing its experience in disaster management and its networks in Nepal to help earthquake-hit schools return to normality and ensure all children have access to the basic amenities they need to attend school. Under the project, Pragya is constructing earthquake-resistant, environmentally suitable school toilets with separate male/female facilities, along with the installation of water tanks with filtration units to provide safe and readily-available drinking water for all pupils. Supporting this work, Pragya delivers hygiene awareness sessions in schools to help combat the spread of diseases to which children are especially vulnerable, and supports the development of student-led water and sanitation committees to monitor the newly constructed and installed facilities and promote their appropriate usage, cleanliness and upkeep.
In support of teaching, Pragya is equipping schools with Teaching and Learning Materials such as science and mathematics kits (including the likes of microscopes, slides, test-tubes, slides, bar magnets, stop watches, prisms, weighing machines, geometry sets, compasses, rulers, and a range of educational charts and table books), textbooks and stationary, whiteboards and flipcharts, atlases and globes, story books, age-appropriate learning games, learning charts covering big general topics (e.g. animals such as birds and insects, the human body, flowers etc.), musical instruments and so on. This equipment provides a vital boost to lesson delivery, enabling teachers to engage with students effectively for productive lessons, significantly enhancing the learning experience for children.
To help identify and support children in Nepal suffering psychological impacts and struggling with schooling following the earthquake, Pragya is training teachers in rural schools to detect the symptoms of trauma, and to provide essential psycho-social counselling in combination with adapted teaching methods as appropriate. The project also promotes co-curricular activities conducive to social interaction and rehabilitation from traumatic experiences, such as cultural celebrations and sporting events.
Through these activities, Pragya aims to ensure that 1000 primary school children aged 5-14 years have renewed access to quality education, with the delivery of classes enhanced through access to a variety of engaging and interactive Teaching and Learning Materials.
The project also aims to improve student attendance rates at school through access to proper sanitation facilities, without which students can be reluctant to attend. This problem affects girls particularly, so this goal also aims to address the gender imbalance in education, ensuring girls can attend school free from the anxiety, social stigma and at times physical threat that comes with inadequate access to secure, female-designated toilets.
The loss of loved ones, the destruction or damage of the home space, the loss or ruin of possessions, the negative health consequences, and the ensuing hunger and deepening of poverty that can result from disasters are overwhelming for anyone, but for children they can prove especially traumatic, and without appropriate support children can fail to adjust and come to terms with their new circumstances. This can vastly hamper children’s ability to learn and inhibit their educational attainment, with potentially life-long consequences. A third key aim of the project, then, is to mitigate the psychological stress of the earthquake on children and restore their capability to undergo schooling and their capacity to learn.
The project is designed to be implemented over a period of 2 years. Year 1 focuses on re-equipping schools, repairing and rebuilding water and sanitation facilities, and initiating teacher training, counselling and co-curricular events to support earthquake-affected children to return to school. In year 2, the project focuses on further teacher training and counselling training to ensure that teachers can effectively support students. Additional hygiene awareness-raising sessions and co-curricular events are conducted in year 2 to cement student knowledge and entrench the sense of community within schools, supporting the continued attendance of pupils.
The project is delivered in partnership with local authorities, civil society organisations, and final beneficiaries to ensure effective targeting of schools and villages and to avoid duplication. Communities are strongly involved in delivery and decision-making processes, including managing resources and providing feedback on the effectiveness of project activities to ensure community ownership and promote sustainability.
Nepal can’t change its location in a disaster-prone region of the world. But what can be achieved through a committed international response to disasters in Nepal is to mitigate the ruinous impacts that they can have on individuals, families and communities, and help affected communities recover quickly and thoroughly, ensuring that tragedy today does not entail lifelong hardship and misfortune. With the support of the Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation, Pragya is achieving just that, building back better for the earthquake-affected children of rural Nepal, securing hope for a brighter future.