By Rosann Jager, Chief Program Officer, buildOn Global
Last year, on April 25th, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Nepal killing almost 9,000 people, injuring over 22,000 people, and destroying or damaging over 8,000 schools. Nearly one million children were left without classrooms.
buildOn’s current impact area is in the Western part of the country and is far from the earthquake’s epicenter. The schools we have built there, since 1991, still remain and students are learning there today. However, since the Earthquake, there have been considerable challenges to overcome in order to continue building schools and to replace the damaged schools in the earthquake-affected regions.
After the quake, the government was slow to release new earthquake-resistant building codes and delayed the process for approving construction plans. In response, buildOn’s technical staff worked in partnership with one of the best engineering schools in Nepal to enhance our school architectural plans to ensure earthquake resistance. This allowed us to break ground on schools immediately after the monsoon season. In the year following the earthquake, buildOn staff worked in partnership with local community members to complete the construction of 13 schools and start the construction of another 15 which are expected to be completed by the end of July 2016.
Unfortunately, although we have identified communities in the earthquake-affected regions who need schools rebuilt and who are interested in providing all of the unskilled labor and land for construction, we have not received approval from the government to build in these areas. We are hopeful to receive the approval soon and will then start work on a pilot number of schools in this region. We hope to be able to celebrate the completion of these schools on the 2nd anniversary of the earthquake.
The new school year is just starting in Nepal and buildOn is working with partner communities to enroll 2,650 children in school who have never been to school or dropped out. Additionally, buildOn will work with 30 partner communities who will contribute over 20,000 volunteer workdays to finish the construction of 30 schools. Lastly, village-based facilitators who are monitored and supported by buildOn will work in 18 villages to teach almost 700 adults (98% of them women) literacy skills. After 25 years, buildOn has never been stronger in Nepal and we will continue to grow despite any obstacles we may face.