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Nepal November 2017

Filling schools with life

Long-term aid for Nepal's earthquake regions

"You still feel a general tension in people. There is the memory and, of course, the constant subliminal fear of further earthquakes," says Lukas Mall after his return. As part of a 17-member team, he traveled to the Nepalese mountain region from 3rd to 18th November, in cooperation with the "Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit" (GIZ GmbH). Already in 2015, emergency pedagogues were in Nepal and experienced the destruction and despair of the people after the devastating earthquakes very closely. The two major natural disasters in April and May 2015 (strengths 7.8 and 6.9) killed almost 9,000 people and left 3.5 million homeless. Now the eleven emergency pedagogues, together with six translators and a GIZ coordinator, were in action about 60-70 km northwest of Kathmandu.

There are many fundamental problems in Nepal that are not caused solely by earthquakes, but have been worsened by them. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. Many families still live in damaged houses or in bamboo, cardboard or corrugated iron huts. In addition to logistical difficulties, reconstruction is progressing so slowly because Nepal is in a serious political crisis. The downfall of the hated royal dynasty in 2006 plunged the hierarchical society into change. The young Nepalis want to take part in the decision, but the hope of a "new Nepal" is fading, the country is at a standstill. The economy is on the ground, there is no constitution, and neither is a functioning bureaucracy. Many are forced to work abroad.
The fear of further earthquakes additionally paralyzes people. And it is not unfounded: the aftershocks continue to this day, researchers expect more. It is now all about strengthening people and making the buildings that are being rebuilt safer. For this reason, GIZ is building schools, offering agricultural training and educational opportunities. The reconstruction programme provides medium- to long-term support for the rehabilitation of communities affected by the earthquake. "But soft skills and education are also important," explains Berthold Bös, an expert from GIZ. The emergency pedagogues have arrived for this. The experts work in three villages with about 3000 people. It is about activating the resilience of children and young people. Teachers and parents should be enabled to act as support for the children through workshops. Only those who have enough strength can help others. In this way, safe places for the children can be created in schools and at home, both physically and mentally.

One of the visited villages is the 3000 soul village Dandagaun. It was hit hard by the earthquake two years ago. Approximately 70 people died here, almost all buildings were damaged or destroyed. Practically everyone has lost a close person. "The biggest difficulty is that we are reminded of all this every day," says the school director. And it is true that reconstruction is progressing very slowly. Everything has to be laboriously moved to remote places like Dandagaun. There is still a view of destruction, as if the quake was only months past and not more than two years ago. 70% of the inhabitants of Dandagaun still live in emergency shelters. Half of the school lessons also take place in temporary learning rooms. The sheet metal huts are an interim solution that has become permanent.
The old school is still standing, but it does not meet the safety regulations by far. That's why GIZ is building a new house here. Berthold Bös sees a great benefit in the cooperation between GIZ and the Emergency Pedagogy: "We are building the schools. It is now a matter of filling them with lively learning content to make the children strong for the future."

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