How are students doing 5 years after the earthquake in Nepal?
February 18, 2020 by Aya Kibesaki, Global Partnership for Education |
5 minutes read

Dipesh and Matisha are two young people whose lives and education were disrupted by the 2015 earthquakes. Find out where they are now and where they go to school.

I first met Dipesh in 2015, right after a 7.9 magnitude earthquake had hit Sindhupalchowk district in Nepal, where he lives. 

Sindhupalchowk was one of the areas worst affected by the earthquake, which killed over 9,000 people. Dipesh was 11 years old then. He is now 15 and a student in class 8 at Shree Mahendrodaya Higher Secondary School. 

After living in a makeshift shelter for three years, Dipesh and his family moved into their new home, rebuilt with financial support from the government.

“I realized I could’ve died. So now it’s like I’ve got another life, or another chance at life, so I should study better. It is harder, but that thought motivates me.”


Displaced education

Since the earthquake, Dipesh has had to change classrooms a couple of times. First, he attended a transitional learning center (temporary classroom) made of bamboo, wood and tarpaulin, and now his school is a five-story building that did not collapse from the earthquake but suffered some damages. 

When his current classroom undergoes repair, he will need to change classrooms again, either to another transitional structure or to the new earthquake-proof two-story building currently under construction.

Despite all these challenges, Dipesh is at the top of his class. I was extremely happy to find him in his classroom four years on, especially since Dipesh is from a disadvantaged background and also at his age, it is not uncommon for boys to be working.

Thank God it happened on a Saturday. We cannot imagine what would’ve happened if we were in the classroom at that time.

School’s Principal Dhruba Lal Shrestha
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Like Dipesh, Matisha is a student in Sindhupalchowk district. Matisha, her sister and mother Binita were at home when the earthquake struck nearly five years ago. The stairs and the back of their house fell down the steep hillside.

Trapped in the house, they were rescued by Matisha’s father and neighbors, who helped them climb out of their house through the window.

At Matisha’s school, which welcomed 1,400 students, 44 out 50 classrooms were destroyed.

But within a month, the girls were able to go back to school in a temporary learning center on the school grounds, a remarkable feat by the government and development partners given the scale of the destruction.

We didn’t feel very safe so we moved to where other people were staying in a field nearby. After a couple of weeks help started coming in, so we had food, and then we started to wonder what would happen to our children’s education. Would they go back to school soon or not?  

Matisha's mother
Matisha on the stairs of what used to be her house
Matisha Napit, 15, on the new staircase in what used to be the center of her family's house. When the earthquake hit, Matisha, her mother Binita and her sister Alisha were in the house. Matisha, then 11, pulled on her mother’s hand, asking her to go with her to the toilet outside. “For some reason I pulled her back and said don’t go,” says Binita. At that moment the stairs collapsed. "If we had gone out they would’ve collapsed with us on them.” Chautara, Ward 5, Sindhupalchowk District, Nepal.
PME/Kelley Lynch

A swift response after the destruction

Since the earthquakes, the Government of Nepal has made considerable progress in providing learning spaces for students. The two earthquakes that hit the country in 2015 damaged more than 35,000 schools, leaving 1.5 million students with extreme challenges in continuing their education. What was remarkable was that despite the shock and impact on their own homes, families and communities reacted so quickly to ensure that children were back in school swiftly so as not to disrupt their learning.

Within days, government engineers carried out visits to schools labelling over 15,000 schools that were no longer safe to use. I remember that while the earthquake happened on a Saturday, on Monday data on the extent of the damage started coming in from districts, showing how well prepared everyone was.

Community members started building temporary learning centers as makeshift classrooms. Development partners, including NGOs, supported building many of these, provided materials and psychosocial support.

Once schools re-opened, a more detailed assessment of all affected schools was carried out, and the recovery framework identified 45,000 classrooms in need of repair or reconstruction. 

With the support of development partners, the government committed to building back better by constructing and retrofitting the schools to earthquake resistant standards developed after the earthquake and enforced since.

So far 6,646 out of 7,500 schools in the 14 most affected districts have been reconstructed to replace schools that could not be repaired.

Construction of the remaining schools planned for the 2019/20 fiscal year has begun. 

Embedding recovery in the sector plan

Nepal’s School Sector Development Plan (SSDP), which was under development when the earthquake occurred, was revised to reflect disaster and school reconstruction objectives and strategies as part of the overall reconstruction effort.

The plan includes not only disaster mitigation objectives but also programs to support community resilience, an important component as schools are at the center of many communities.

Structural assessments of non-affected districts and schools were carried out and retrofitting will ensure that damage is minimized the next time a disaster hits. Nepal’s curriculum and textbooks already included disaster risks, including earthquakes, but this will be strengthened.

In line with the GPE principles of inclusive and effective education policy dialogue around the government, Nepal’s joint sector review processes were strengthened over the years.

Reconstruction efforts continue to be part of the sector discussions, providing regular updates on the earthquake recovery and reconstruction efforts to development partners.

New GPE grants to support a stronger education system

GPE continues to support Nepal and awarded the country US$24.2 million in March 2019, which go into a pooled fund with the Government and 8 other development partners. The GPE grant directly supports the implementation of the government program, the SSDP, which aims to improve the quality, access and efficiency of early childhood, basic and secondary education, and also includes disaster risk reduction. 

The grant is composed of a regular implementation grant of US$9.2 million and a US$15 million GPE Multiplier grant, leveraged with additional co-financing of US$164 million from the Asian Development Bank and US$3.5 million from USAID. The ADB grant supports disaster risk reduction and school safety.

Through the efforts of the government and its partners, Nepal is not only in the final phase of recovering from the damages and impact from the 2015 disaster but has also further strengthened its education sector resilience. The country is now prepared to face natural disasters and ensure education doesn’t get disrupted.

Unfortunately, this is not a luxury as the country is located in one of the most active seismic zones in the world and earthquakes are not an ‘if’ but rather a ‘when’.

Students affected by the earthquake, like Dipesh and Matisha, have hope that they’ll be able to continue their education in a safe classroom and look forward to a better future.

Dipesh Nepali, 15, at Shree Mahendrodaya Higher Secondary School, Sindhupalchowk District, Nepal. Four years after the earthquake, and despite having lived and studied in makeshift structures, Dipesh is a good student and is always ranked first in his class.
Despite challenges Dipesh is at the top of his class
Dipesh Nepali, 15, at Shree Mahendrodaya Higher Secondary School, Sindhupalchowk District, Nepal. Four years after the earthquake, and despite having lived and studied in makeshift structures, Dipesh is a good student and is always ranked first in his class.
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
The temporary learning center
The temporary learning center
Students at Shree Mahendrodaya Higher Secondary School play football in the open space in front of the temporary learning centers. Behind, the school's new building (with red roof) is under construction.
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
Dipesh walks home from school
Dipesh walks home from school.
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
Dipesh at home with his mother
Dipesh at home with his mother
Dipesh arrives home after school. His family’s house, located far above the valley floor, was destroyed during the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25, 2015. Less than a year ago his family moved into this new home. It is smaller than their old house, but safer because it is only one story.
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
Dipesh is doing homework in his new home
Dipesh is doing homework in his new home
Dipesh studies after school at his new house. Without a desk, he improvises and kneels on the side of the bed: “I study like this because it feels like I’m sitting in school on a bench," he explains.
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
A view from the Chautara, Ward 5, Sindhupalchowk District, Nepal
A view from the Chautara, Ward 5, Sindhupalchowk District, Nepal
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
Construction of new and safer schools
Construction of new and safer schools
Principal Dhruba Lal Shrestha supervizes construction of the new building for Shree Krishna Ratna School in Chautara, Ward 5, Sindhupalchowk District, Nepal. Sindhupalchowk was among the hardest hit districts by the earthquake of April 25, 2015 as well as in the aftershock that occurred on May 12. The school, which had over 1,400 students, lost 44 of its 50 classrooms. “Thank God it happened on a Saturday,” says the school’s Principal Dhruba Lal Shrestha. “We cannot imagine what would have happened if we were in the classroom at that time.”
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
A temporary learning center
A temporary learning center
Mathematics teacher and students at Shree Krishna Ratna School in Chautara. While the new school is being “built back better”, students have spent the last three years studying in classrooms made of corrugated sheeting.
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
Matisha Napit at a temporary learning center
Matisha Napit at a temporary learning center
Matisha Napit, left, is in class 10 at Shree Krishna Ratna School in Chautara, Ward 5, Sindhupalchowk District, Nepal. “I’ll be happy to move to the new school,” she says. “This school is airy and it’s not too hot, but when it rains it’s very noisy, and the water just comes in. I’m looking forward learning in a proper classroom.”
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
Matisha, her sister Alisha and mother Binita Napit outside their house .
Matisha, her sister Alisha and mother Binita Napit outside their house .
Though still in construction, the family has been able to go back in their house for a year. The stairs and the back of their house fell down the steep hillside during the earthquake.
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
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South Asia: Nepal

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Positive examples build faith in moving from destruction to Construction. Nepal Government and Partners have set that example. Glad that Students also responded.

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