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China helps quake-hit Nepal's gloomy education

Xinhua, May 11, 2016 Adjust font size:

It has only been three weeks since the new school year started in Nepal as the country marked the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake recently, and more than one million children have started classes at temporary learning centers in the hardest-hit regions.

Many of these children are preparing themselves to face the second summer under crammed tents and sweltering zinc sheets. Most of them are worried whether the roofs and walls of the temporary school buildings will hold up to monsoons or not.

However, students of Shree Sundar Suryodaya Primary School, located in Chisapani-8 of Kavrepalanchowk, one of the worst-hit districts, feel fortunate to be receiving an education inside a new school building that is safe, secure and quake-resistant.

"Initially we studied under the open sky and then in a temporary learning center. Finally, we are in a classroom that makes us feel good. It's even better than our previous school building," Sundhoj Tamang, a 12-year-old a fifth grader, told Xinhua on Monday afternoon.

Like Sundhoj, 73 other primary school-aged students have also felt a sense of relief and joy at being able to study in a safe environment, thanks to Chinese assistance.

One of many schools, for example, that was completely flattened by the April 25 disaster last year has been reconstructed under the financial assistance of a Chinese monk named Rev. Si Hua, commonly known as Cetana.

Immediately after the disaster, monk Cetana reached the Chisapani village, some 50 kilometers away from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu, and offered to help rebuild the school, which was originally established in 1981.

Three buildings with seven classrooms were constructed within three months, at a time when the nation was reeling under a fuel crisis and shortage of essential goods due to border blockades.

As a result, the cost of construction exceeded 400,000 MB (3,751 U.S. dollars).

Chen Zhao Shen, the contractor of the school reconstruction project told Xinhua, "Reconstruction of this school needed a huge effort. At first, all the materials had to be transported from the capital city, as there was an acute shortage. But we left no stone unturned to ensure the quick completion of the school's total restoration."

Shree Sundar Suryodaya Primary School is among a handful of schools that could start its new academic session in a permanent building, as the Himalayan country is struggling to get its education system back on track.

Private donors and support from the international community have pledged funds to the tune of 4.1 billion U.S. dollars for the reconstruction of the quake-ravaged country.

On Sunday, the government announced that the reconstruction of its schools has been kept as a priority in its annual policy and programs. However, the actual tasks have yet to begin.

According to UNICEF, around 1.7 million children have been directly affected by the massive disaster last year, with more than 35,000 classrooms severely damaged.

In the Kavrepalanchowk district alone, of the 321 primary, 91 lower secondary, 80 secondary and 56 higher secondary schools, 353 schools were destroyed completely.

The Kavre District Education Office has planned to reconstruct as many as 45 primary schools in the first phase with top priority being given to schools with many students. However, reconstruction has been complicated for the schools like Shree Sundar Suryodaya Primary School, which has less than 100 students in total.

"The Chinese assistance arrived as a blessing for us. We are glad that we could provide an education to the students in child-friendly and weather-friendly classrooms. It has provided a bright light on an otherwise dark education situation," Nur Prasad Bajgain, Principal of the school, told Xinhua.

According to Bajgain, who has been with the school for the last 31 years, the new school buildings have also pushed up the regular attendance of students.

The area where the school is located is dominated by indigenous ethnic Tamang settlement. As most of the male members of the family are in the Gulf and Middle East for employment, females are dependent upon farming and thus prefer to keep children at home to help.

Against this backdrop, the new school buildings have motivated the parents to send their children to school regularly.

Ram Bahadur Thapa, 67, a local, told Xinhua, "I am

happy that no children will remain illiterate in our village due to the earthquake. I am not educated but I want my grandchildren to receive a good education."