The other problem has been lack of students. Many families migrated to the cities after the earthquake and have not returned. In Grade 10 of Kali Devi School, there are only five students. Government schools especially have fewer students because besides outmigration, parents are also sending their children to private schools.
“Half our students dropped out because of the difficulties in the Temporary Learning Centres after the earthquake, it is difficult to get them to come back,” Principal Chaudhary says.
The other looming crisis concerns western Nepal which has not seen a major earthquake for 700 years and seismologists have warned that a catastrophic quake there is overdue. Experts say schools in western Nepal need to be urgently retrofitted.
Explains Narayan Marasini at the National Society for Earthquake Technology Nepal (NSET): “A lot of the focus has been given to Eastern and Central Nepal following the earthquakes in 1988 and 2015, we now need to tackle the challenges in the West.”
Recognising this problem, the British aid agency DFID has launched a Safer Schools Project which aims to retrofit and reconstruct schools in Western Nepal.
“We chose this region to work with because there is high vulnerability and low awareness on coping mechanisms,” says Eleanor Bainbridge of DFID.
Indeed, 2015 proved that strengthening school buildings is important in saving lives in a disaster. None of the schools that had been retrofitted by NSET came down in the earthquake, and many of the schools that crumbled had not been strengthened.
The answer is not another building code, but implementing the 1994 guidelines. If the lessons from the Gorkha Earthquake of 2015 are heeded, it could save a lot of children’s lives in a future disaster.