A Broken School, But There Is Hope

The journal extract below comes from First Steps Himalaya supporter Carmel Hutchinson from Hong Kong, who previously shared her experiences of visiting one of our new project schools in Nuwakot District. Here, she talks about her shock at visiting a school that’s still struggling to recover from the 2015 earthquake.

Carmel spent a week in rural Nepal visiting First Steps Himalaya projects with Director, Durga Aran.

SUNDRADEVI SCHOOL – our 6th School for the day!

This school, and the one following, I found the most heartbreaking. They were almost completely devastated during the earthquake and there has been very little improvement since.

On the way to this remote, battered, crumbling school, we picked up the Headmaster. He was a quiet, well-dressed man who seemed fairly resigned. I later changed my assessment from resigned to a “bit broken”.

By comparison to others we’d seen, Sundradevi had been a sizeable school in its day, but the earthquake had all but destroyed it.

It is incomprehensible to think that almost four years after an event like that, these schools have yet to be visited by any central government representatives to assess the damage. 

The children and teachers are working in classrooms with missing walls and no windows! I don’t know how they do it. Even on a warm, sunny day, the wind whistles up the mountain straight through the unprotected classrooms. I cannot even begin to imagine what it’s like in winter and if indeed the children even turn up for classes. I wouldn’t blame them if they didn’t.

No wonder the headmaster seemed like a broken man.

Construction on a new building has been slow going, and it will not be nearly adequate to accommodate all the students in the area. There are other buildings that from the outside look to be in a better state, but closer inspections through the barred windows reveal unstable roofs and walls.

In a western school, these buildings would have been demolished as soon as possible for safety purposes, but little or no funding makes that a low priority here.

Dal, his colleague, the headmaster and one of the other teachers from the school spoke at length about what they have endured and their hopes for the future. While Louise and I couldn’t understand most of it, we had the feeling as we left that the previously-resigned looking headmaster was standing taller and looking lighter. There was even a hint of a smile in one of the photos. I am filled with admiration for him and his staff, and for all teachers we have met this week. 

Text and photos courtesy of Carmel Hutchinson.