Nepal earthquakes: restored school is handed over

The secondary school in Dolakha District is handed over at the morning assembly. Credit: NJSI
The secondary school in Dolakha District is handed over at the morning assembly. Credit: NJSI

The generosity of Jesuit Missions’ supporters has enabled secondary school children in a remote mountain village in Nepal to resume their education in safe, secure facilities, less than two years after their buildings were wiped out by devastating earthquakes.

Shree Haleshwor Higher Secondary School was one of seven schools destroyed or severely damaged in Dolakha District when the earthquakes struck in April and May 2015. Jesuit Missions in Britain responded immediately by committing £10,000 to the relief and reconstruction programmes set up by the Jesuits in Nepal. Last week, Shree Haleshwor Higher Secondary School was handed over to the school authority at the students’ morning assembly.

The school faces the beautiful Gaurishankar range of the Himalayas, 200 km from Kathmandu. Dolakha District consists of a population of 55,000, with 970 houses and nine schools. Since the 2015 earthquakes, the Jesuits in the country have been supporting the reconstruction of four of the schools, although they have continued to supply the pupils with educational materials during the emergency phase. The area is prone to landslides and the access road is very challenging and dangerous, so it was a very difficult task to complete the repair work of this school. But by cooperating with the school management committee, staff and local people, it was eventually completed.

The restored Shree Haleshwor Higher Secondary School is made up of two truss fixed semi permanent buildings. Last week, members of the School Management Committee, teachers, parents and students gathered to express their gratitude to the Nepal Jesuit Social Institute (NJSI), which had been established by the Jesuits of Nepal immediately following the 2015 earthquakes, to coordinate their response. The NJSI staff and the invited guests were welcomed by children with songs and cultural dances, as the school premises were handed over at the morning assembly of the students.

Buildings of stone and mudOne of the new classrooms at Shree Haleshwor Higher Secondary School, Nepal

Among the representatives of the NJSI were its Chairperson, Fr Bonyface Tigga SJ, its director, Fr Roy Sebastian SJ and Fr Arulanandam SJ, who is in charge of the NJSI’s response in the region. He thanked the entire school team for their cooperation, encouraged the students to make the best of the facilities that were being provided and assured them of the NJSI’s continuing support in the future.

Since the 2015 earthquakes, the Jesuits in Nepal have already provided food and household items to over 6000 families in 40 villages in nine affected districts. Medical camps and mobile clinics have been set up in 20 villages, providing psycho-social care to children, students, teachers, staff and many others, in addition to health resources. Thousands of students have been supplied with stationery, uniforms, text books and white boards; and furniture has been distributed to 28 schools. Earthquake survivors in ten districts now have access to better educational facilities, better school buildings and shelters as a result of the Jesuits' initiatives. They also have better sustainable livelihood options, with a special focus on the women and children, especially those with disabilities.

But children are still being educated in schools that were built with stone and mud, which either collapsed or are unsafe since the 2015 earthquakes. In many places, the schools are run in makeshift classrooms under very difficult conditions. Additionally, the hostels for the children with special needs are also damaged and they are living in one crammed room, which is used for cooking, eating and sleeping, as well as studying. The Jesuits in Nepal have expressed their gratitude for the generosity of international donors, including Jesuit Missions, and committed themselves to the restoration of their country and the welfare of its people.