DHADING DISTRICT, Nepal – The evidence of learning interrupted was everywhere. Notebooks and stray paper, broken chairs and tables were strewn across a classroom at Janajagriti Higher Secondary School – the aftermath of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked Nepal on April 25, 2015.

Janajagriti Higher Secondary School seven months after the earthquake in 2015. MCC photo/Matthew Sawatzky

The school — with about 1,000 students from nursery to grade 12 — is 25 miles from Kathmandu. Most students are from the marginalized Tamang, Chepang or Danuwar Rai ethnic groups; about 30 percent are from vulnerable families who settled near the local river and work in the quarry, breaking and lifting stones and driving trucks.

Fortunately, on the day of the earthquake the school was closed and no one was injured.  However, an engineering inspection discovered that the school, and another building on the property, were unsafe.

Large cracks filled with concrete at Janajagriti Higher Secondary School.MCC photo/Matthew Sawatzky

But with no other options for educating students, classes resumed in parts of the damaged buildings. The science, library and children’s club programs were put on hold because of a lack of space.

Several classes were shifted to temporary quarters built with corrugated steel. These open structures are vulnerable in harsh weather, especially during the winter when temperatures fall. 

Students at Janajagriti Higher Secondary School learn in a temporary classroom.MCC photo/Matthew Sawatzky

MCC has supported the school for eight years in partnership with local organizations Sansthagat Bikas Sanjal and Chandra Jyoti Integrated Development Society. MCC has funded scholarships for students from marginalized backgrounds, as well as teacher training and capacity-building training for the school management committee. 

In response to damage done to the school, MCC is providing funds to Concern Worldwide – a humanitarian organization that works in Nepal and an MCC partner. Heavily damaged walls are being removed and rebuilt, others strengthened with reinforced concrete. New foundation footings, steel columns and cables will increase the structural strength of the building.

Workers demolish walls at Janajariti Higher Secondary School.Photo courtesy of Concern Worldwide

Luke Reesor-Keller, an MCC representative in Nepal, says it’s important that students have a safe place to learn.

“The students will be able to move out of the temporary and semi-permanent classrooms and resume using the third floor of the school,” says Reesor-Keller. “This will be a more comfortable learning environment for them, especially in winter.” Reesor-Keller is from Markham, Ont.

Debris on the site has been sorted and recycled. Some of the paid work is done by unskilled laborers from the area, with priority given to: parents of school students, members of the Chepang or Danuwar Rai ethnic groups, families who work at the stone quarry, families who don’t legally own land and women-headed households. The goal is to employ equal numbers of women and men.

Managing debris from the demolition.Photo courtesy of Concern Worldwide

Students should be able to return to the refurbished building by the end of August.
Almost 9,000 people died and more than 893,500 homes were destroyed in the April 2015 quake and a second earthquake that happened about two weeks later. MCC is working alongside partners in Nepal on several other earthquake-related projects. Here are some of them:
•    Mason training to support housing reconstruction. Income generation activities to help people restore livelihoods. Strengthening community development and mothers’ group.
•    Repair or replacement of water systems, including those in five schools.  Construction and rehabilitation of damaged irrigation canals.
•     Improve access to water and sanitation hygiene facilities for thousands of households. 
•    Care and support for people with mental health issues living in earthquake-affected areas, including support for mentally ill homeless people and a mental illness inpatient treatment house for 240 people.
•    Rebuilding of two community health clinics and providing essential medical equipment.

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