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with Stefan Nestler

“We are ready” in Thulosirubari

Children play "Hot Potato"

Children play “Hot Potato”

“They lost their houses and all their property, but they didn’t lose their plans,” says Arjun Gatraj about the people of his native village Thulosirubari. “There is still hope.” Not only for better times for themselves, but also for their children. “They feel that education is important for their children. They sent them directly after the earthquake as soon as we started the school again.” Arjun is the chairman of the school committee of Thulosirubari, a small mountain village, about 70 kilometers from the Nepalese capital Kathmandu. Almost every family has been affected by the earthquake. “75 people died, among them eight of our students”, Arjun tells me during my visit in Thulosirubari. “About 1800 houses were destroyed, only 30 to 40 are still intact.”

Teaching outside

Earthquake damage in Sangachok

Earthquake damage in Sangachok

Also almost eleven months after the devastating earthquake on 25 April 2015, the damage in Sindhupalchowk District, east of Kathmandu, is obvious. Most people, whose houses collapsed in the quake, are still living in tin sheds. They have cleared the debris, provisionally, if at all. As reported, the “Gerlinde and Ralf-School” in Thulosirubari had been damaged so badly that it had to be demolished completely. The teachers are currently giving lessons to about 700 students in temporary classrooms with tin sheets – or outside. Even today, the younger children have gathered outside. They work on a quiz. In teams of three, they lean over their wooden desks and put their heads together. The best of the ten teams will represent the school in the near future in a competition with other schools. Each correct answer is accompanied by large applause from the audience.

Shortly before take-off

Who will represent the school?

Who will represent the school?

“Even in winter, the teachers often moved outside,” says Arjun.”We could not heat the sheds. In the midday sun it was warmer than inside.” For a long time the staff meetings were held beneath a large tree on the school grounds. Now the teachers use a tent. “If strong wind is blowing, we think it is going to fly into the air,” says the head of the school committee and laughs. The people of Thulosirubari have not lost their sense of humor and regained their courage.

Jumping out the window

Shailaja Kasaju

Shailaja Kasaju

Immediately after the quake, that was different. Many residents of the villages were traumatized, among them also the children. “I could read it in their faces,” English teacher Shailaja Kasaju recalls. The 27-year-old is giving lessons at the school in Sangachok, not far from Thulosirubari. „A week back I had seen them smiling, very happy. And these faces turned into very sad faces. They even stopped talking to each other, what was very sad.“ The children were so traumatized that they often jumped out of the windows of the temporary classrooms when an aftershock occured. Meanwhile, they have become adepted to the situation, says Shailaja: “They have a kind of accepted it. In case of earthquake they know we can do this, we cannot do that. So they know the concept of earthquake, how to be safe.“ Like the school in Thulosirubari, the school in Sangachok had to be demolished completely. Both had been built and supported by the “Nepalhilfe Beilngries“.

Waiting for the go-ahead

The German aid organization is awaiting the approval of the Nepalese government for reconstruction. The process has become much more bureaucratic. Before the earthquake, the “Nepalhilfe” could manage the construction of new schools directly with the local school committees, now there are two more intermediary instances. “We hope that we can start in April,” says Shyam Pandit, who coordinates the school projects of the “Nepalhilfe” in the country. The government has adopted new rules to make the buildings earthquake resistant. So the schools must not have more than two floors now.

Loud and stressful

Badly soundproofed tin sheds

Badly soundproofed tin sheds

The teachers long for the new buildings. The lessons in the badly soundproofed tin sheds are “very stressful,” says Shailaja. “If I teach in one class, the other two classes are disturbed. We can hear everything from the other classes coming in. The teachers have to go on top of their voice. This is very tiring.” In addition, the students get distracted a lot, because they can see what happens outside, says Shailaya. And then there is also the risk of injury: “The children are cutting their hands on these tin sheets.”

The place for the new school in Thulosirubari is already chosen. The wooden doors and windows of the demolished school store in a shed. “So we can save money,” says Arjun Gatraj, the chairman of the school committee. “We are ready for reconstruction.”

P.S.: The people in Thulosirubari asked me to tell you a heartfelt thank you. Your donations for our aid project “School up!” have made the hopefully soon start of the construction works possible in the first place. More than a third of the necessary amount is already met. 🙂 But the prices of construction material in Nepal have increased by 50 percent after the earthquake and the long blockade of the Nepal-Indian border. We are not there yet. Please continue to donate for “School up!” and tell others of this project! Here again the account information:

Recipient: Nepalhilfe Beilngries
Bank: Volksbank Bayern Mitte eG/Germany
IBAN: DE05 7216 0818 0004 6227 07
Intended purpose: Gerlinde and Ralf School


14. March 2016 | 18:52