When the Schoolhouse Falls Down

The aftermath of the Nepal earthquake

The earthquake in Nepal could be devastating for schools.
Image: My Good Images / Shutterstock.com

Nepal’s recent 7.8 earthquake has thrown this country to the forefront of the news, with millions of people displaced. But one of the major casualties of the quake gets little mention on front pages and soundbites: the nation’s schools.

Nepal’s population includes an estimated eleven million minors. According to a recent article from UNICEF’s Press Center, nearly one million of those don’t have a classroom to return to when national schools re-open today.

Almost 24,000 classrooms have been made unsafe or completely destroyed in the quake and the aftershocks in the twelve days since. In the hardest-hit districts, fewer than one in ten school buildings still stand. Of those that do, nearly all have been in use as emergency shelters, necessary accommodations that still are likely to further disrupt classes, potentially for years to come.

UNICEF expects this educational crisis to have long-lasting ramifications. Nepal already suffers a drop-out rate of a little more than ten percent, even with the huge strides made in the country’s schools. In the last 25 years, primary school enrollment leapt from 64% to more than 95% today. But the disaster relief organization has experience with this kind of disaster and its effects on schoolchildren.

The simple, unfortunate truth is that anything that keeps children out of school for an extended period of time, particularly something as disruptive as a major disaster, makes them less likely to ever return.

“There is a desperate need to set up alternative learning spaces, assess and repair buildings, and mount a public awareness campaign encouraging families to send their children back to school and preschool,” said Tomoo Hozumi, UNICEF’s Representative in Nepal. “Prolonged interruption to education can be devastating for children’s development and future prospects.”

UNICEF and their cooperatives are working fast to combat this possibility, setting up temporary schools and childcare in 14 districts and working with local governments to establish systems to quickly and safely assess, repair, and re-open schools. They have begun an appeal to international donors to raise US$50 million to support children at risk in Nepal.

Please donate here.

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