Children across Nepal’s most devastated areas have begun returning to class, a month after the earthquake claimed more than 8,600 lives.
Makeshift classrooms, made of bamboo, have been set up on football fields while alternative buildings are starting to become available after being signed off by engineers.
As students file into class, teachers were quick to assure the children that they were in a safe place. The psychological aftermath of the earthquake has had a devastating effect on students, most of whom were thankfully not in class at the time of the quake.
At the Adarsha Saula Yubak Higher secondary school in the village of Khokana, the school principal made the students feel safe by conducting classes in the makeshift bamboo huts “so not to worry about the earthquake”.
Saroj Bhakta Acharya, the principal, said the children would “spend a week playing and talking about about good things.”
“We can understand their mood,’ said Acharya. “Out of our 56 teachers, 16 of them have lost their houses completely and are still living outside.”
In senior schools, students were encouraged to share their stories about the quake, providing a welcoming environment that was more focussed on the rehabilitation of the students, as opposed to continuing their education for now.
Principal Govinda Poudel said the teachers have been trained “to help to children overcome the trauma of the quake and adjust to being back at school.”
However, opening for some schools is still a while off, with school grounds still being filled with debris and temporary construction not completed.
Director general of Nepal’s education department Dilli Ram Rimal said he hoped that more schools will continue to reopen over the coming weeks.
Unicef has stressed the importance of children returning to school as soon as possible. Over the past 25 years, Nepal has improved school enrolment from 64% to 95%, with many authorities fearing the progress could decline again.
“The longer children stay home, the more difficult it will be for them to return to school,” said Tomoo Hozumi, Unicef’s Nepal representative.
Chhori Laxmi Maharjan, a clinical psychologist at the Ankur counselling centre in Kathmandu spoke about the importance of school in the rehabilitation process.
“What they were doing before the earthquake was going to school, playing with friends and having a certain routine,” Maharjan said. “This will help them heal.”
The task of rebuilding tens of thousands of schools is a huge cost for Nepal. With reconstruction costs looking to be around the $7bn mark (a third of the GDP) Nepal will need continuing aid to return to a state of normalcy post disaster.