A landslide and an earthquake - a school re-emerges after back-to-back disasters

Aug 22, 2018

By Aayush Niroula

Sindhupalchowk, Nepal –Balaram Timilsina, Principal of Bansanghu Secondary School, is always eager to show visitors the new transitional learning centres built on his school premises.

“The TLCs are very spacious,” Mr Timilsina says beaming. “They provide a better learning environment for the students as they allow a lot of light in.”

The two TLCs, with two classrooms each, were built as part of the USAID-UNICEF Emergency Education Response in Nepal project. The EERN project seeks to restore education in post-earthquake Nepal through provision of 250 transitional structures until permanent reconstruction catches up.  

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Mr Timilsina heaves a sigh of relief. Thanks to the four extra classrooms, he is now able to accommodate the nearly 50 students who could not fit in the school’s eight-room permanent building.

But the journey to getting here has been nothing less than arduous and painful.

At the time of the 2015 earthquakes, the little village of Kagune, where the school is located, was still recovering from the impact of a massive landslide that had swept 46 houses from a perch in the hill, and thrown them into the river less than a year ago. The school, which was located at the bottom of the hill, had been swept away too.

  • the hills where the landslide occurred

A total of 146 people, including 32 of Mr Timilsina’s students, lost their lives during what’s now popularly known as the ‘Jurey’ landslide.

“It was total devastation, there were only traces left of the school building,” he recalls. “We kept finding little things from our classrooms and offices when the dozers came in to clean up the debris.”

As the locals tried to rebuild their lives, the community gathered to decide on the fate of the school. With fewer students after the landslide, the school was up for a merger with another school quite far away. But parents were adamant to keep the school accessible for their children.

“They would rather have their children study in bamboo shacks than have them walk more than they already have to get to school,” Mr Timilsina said of the parents.

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Finally, after consultation with geological and soil experts, the community decided to re-establish life in the village and also rebuild the school in its original site on their own. Construction took pace but as the building was being constructed, tragedy hit again – this time in the form of powerful earthquakes. 

“It was a terrifying time ,” Mr Timilsina says. “There was shock, fear, and loss everywhere.”

The earthquake had damaged the ground floor of the under-construction school building.

The school management committee decided to construct temporary bamboo structures to prevent disruption in education while they got the damaged building repaired. Even when the reconstruction of the school building was complete, around 50 students still had to use two of those temporary structures due to lack of space.

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The school community was eventually successful in getting proper and safe learning spaces for these students once the TLCs were built. It was the end of an excruciating chapter for the school and the community when the TLCs were finished as the structures helped provide a semblance of the times before the quakes and the landslide.

“The school obviously felt emptier after the disasters. But now our student numbers is slowly rising with new students coming in,” Mr Timilsina said. “We are glad to have the extra space for new students thanks to the TLCs.”

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