At least 950,000 children in Nepal will not be able to return to school, unless urgent action is taken to provide temporary learning spaces and repair damaged school buildings following the April 25 earthquake, according to Unicef.
Almost 24,000 classrooms were damaged or destroyed in the 7.8 magnitude earthquake.
The scale of the education crisis is expected to grow over the coming days and weeks as additional information flows in from remote areas. Schools are due to reopen on 15 May.
Tomoo Hozumi, Unicef’s representative in Nepal, on Friday said: “Children affected by the earthquake need urgent life-saving assistance like clean water and shelter, but schools in emergencies– even in a temporary setup- play a vital role too. They minimise disruption to children’s education, protect them from exploitation and abuse, and provide them with messages to keep them safe and healthy. Going to school also allows children to regain a vital sense of routine that can help them come to terms with their experiences.”
In the severely-affected districts of Gorkha, Sindhupalchok and Nuwakot, it is estimated that more than 90 per cent of schools have been destroyed, while around 80 per cent school buildings have collapsed in Dhading.
In areas, including Kathmandu and Bhaktapur, approximately nine in ten surviving school buildings are being used as emergency shelters for the quake victims.
Unicef is concerned that great strides made over the last 25 years in increasing primary school enrolment in Nepal– from 64 per cent in 1990 to more than 95 per cent today– could suffer a serious setback in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Nepal’s high dropout rate was already a major concern. Around 1.2 million Nepali children between the ages five and 16 have either never attended school or have dropped out. Unicef's study shows that children who are out of school for extended periods, including during emergencies, are less likely to return to school.
“There is a desperate need to set up alternative learning spaces, assess and repair buildings, and mount a public awareness campaign to encourage families to send their children back to school and preschool,” Hozumi said.
“Prolonged interruption to education can be devastating for children’s development and future prospects.”
Unicef has launched a $50 million appeal to support its humanitarian response to the earthquake in Nepal over the next three months, as part of a wider inter-agency flash appeal.
- The Kathmandu Post/ Asia News Network