“Rammed earth uses locally available mud and minimal cement to construct the walls of the schools, making the buildings better suited for the local climate,” explains Narayan Acharya of Sustainable Future. Cement is used in the upper and lower tie beams so that the vertical and horizontal rods going within the mud walls are well connected. This makes the buildings stronger than traditional reinforced concrete structures.
“At first we thought ‘How can we build a school out of mud?’, but we realised that there were huge benefits,” recalls Shiva Prasad Bajgai, chairperson of Dwarpaleswor School Management Committee. “It is hot here in the summers and very cold in winters, and the mud architecture has insulating properties.”
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To the north in Sindhupalchok, the Bhote Namlang Secondary School was also completely destroyed during the earthquake and was reconstructed with the support of Helambu Education Livelihood Partnership (HELP). The school now has 22 rooms: 12 were newly constructed, 4 were retrofitted and 6 additional rooms were built by the DLPIU.
Bhote Namlang school serves as the education hub of its community, and it was the local people who took charge of the reconstruction, with help from New Zealand and UK-based organisations. The school was reconstructed using local skills and material without any contractors. Architects listened to the local people’s needs before submitting their design. The school’s frame structure ensures that it is earthquake resistant.
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Bhote Namlang has 675 students, and faced a shortage of classrooms and furniture for four years after the earthquake. But today, there are bright modern classrooms, and the students are happy, says Jimmy Lama of HELP, adding that now new sections can be added to accommodate more students.
Apart from being earthquake resistant, many of the rebuilt schools now have much better infrastructure than they did before 2015, allowing them to focus on improving the quality of instruction.
The only problem is that with accelerated outmigration after the earthquake, the villages are being depopulated and there are fewer children. The hope is that with better schools, some of the families who have migrated to the cities may actually return.
Says Bajgai of Dwarpaleswor school, “Now that we no longer have to worry about infrastructure, we are thinking of expanding the school to Grade 10 and investing in better teachers and improved quality.”