More than 150 retrofitted school buildings withstood the earthquake that rocked Nepal in 2015. Now hundreds more schools are being upgraded to keep students and communities safe.
Kathmandu, Nepal – In April 2015, Pooja Tamang was giving a presentation to her classmates when her school on the outskirts of Kathmandu began to shake violently.
“We rushed out to open ground nearby,” she recalls.
Within minutes of the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck on April 25, almost a thousand people had gathered on the grounds of her school—Tri-Padma Vidyashram—in the town of Pulchowk. Her family and many others took shelter there for weeks after the disaster.
The earthquake was one of the strongest in the recent history of Nepal, killing more than 8,000 people, injuring over 16,000, and devastating thousands of buildings. About 8,000 schools were damaged or destroyed, affecting the education of about 1.5 million children.
Retrofitted schools provide sense of security
Public schools accounted for 92 percent of total damages and losses in the school sector. While schools collapsed all around Kathmandu Valley, Pooja Tamang’s school showed only hairline cracks in the walls.
Her school was one of the 160 school buildings that had been retrofitted to withstand earthquakes as part of Nepal’s school safety program, supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of Australia.
“Retrofitting against earthquakes was the best decision that I took as the headmaster.”
“The 2015 earthquake showed the relevance of the program,” says Smita Gyawali, a senior project officer with ADB. “Many retrofitted school buildings withstood the earthquake and provided shelter to the community and a sense of security to the students.”
“The people felt confident enough to sleep inside the buildings that had been retrofitted,” Gyawali says. “The fact that we need to retrofit old buildings became self-evident after the quake. Before that people were not too keen about preparing for earthquakes.”
School safety essential to learning
After the earthquake, ADB improved the program further, says Gyawali. About 100 other schools will be retrofitted to be even stronger.
“The schools to be rebuilt or repaired under the project will now have stronger construction and engineering specifications to help the structures withstand future disasters.”
The school safety program is the first program in Nepal that takes into account school safety as an essential component of student learning.
“It is critical that mothers and fathers can send their children to school knowing that they will be safe and that children can continue their education even after disasters strike,” says Gyawali.
At the Bhagwati secondary school in the town of Sankhu, the results of such improvements have already been felt. About 300 people took refuge in the school after the 2015 earthquake.
Building back better for schools
“There was not even a crack in the school building,“ says principal Jeetendra Lal Shrestha. “Retrofitting against earthquakes was the best decision that I took as the headmaster.“
ADB has partnered with Nepal on a wide range of issues in the education sector, including improving opportunities for girls. This has helped the government attain gender parity in education and achieve a net enrollment rate of 96 percent for girls.
Based on the experience of school retrofitting prior to the earthquakes, ADB took up school reconstruction as a major component of the Earthquake Emergency Assistance Project.
The project is now rebuilding or repairing about 160 schools damaged by the earthquake, enabling thousands of children to return to school. The schools will be built to higher specifications to help withstand future disasters and will include improved bathrooms with separate facilities for boys and girls.
Another important project that is affecting schools and education is the Disaster Risk Reduction and Livelihood Restoration for Earthquake-Affected Communities project. The grant project funded by the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction is re-building or retrofitting more than eight schools in poorer and severely affected districts. The buildings will follow disaster resilience standards and have computer equipment, science laboratories, and expanded learning space.Stay up to date Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest issues, news, events, jobs and data in your e-mail inbox.