05/11/2015, 00.00
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Earthquake in Nepal, future of 1.2 million students at risk

by Christopher Sharma
The government has decided to reopen schools on 15 May, but many parents are scared and announce: "We will not leave our children." Many buildings are still unsafe. Teachers issued directive to find "any place" that allows students to study in safety.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) -  Nearly 20 days after the earthquake that devastated the Nepal the life of 1.2 million students is still in danger. According to government directives  next May 15 classes will resume.

However parents fear for the fate of their children, and do not want them to return to school immediately: hundreds of buildings are still unsafe and many were completely razed. Thousands of children and young people living in the districts most affected by the earthquake have lost their books and uniforms.

According to government figures, 16 thousand schools were damaged and at least 600 have collapsed. In the earthquake 32 teachers and 225 students were killed.

Bipina Paudel, a second class student at Annapurna High School, is now living in tent in the open area of ​​Khulamanch, the center of Kathmandu. "My school collapsed - he says - and even the house where we lived has been damaged. I lost books and clothes. I have nothing. " However, he adds, "I want to meet my friends and share our experiences with them. I still do not know when I will be able to go back to school".

Bimala Aryal, mother of a five year old girl, has no doubts: "We are still experiencing powerful aftershocks several times a day. I do not think it is a good idea to send my daughter back to school. I believe that children should be safe with their parents, up to when things will return to normal. "

Another mother, Luna Devkota, agrees: "I went to school to check the damage: the walls have collapsed and the building is destroyed. I'm not going to send my little one to school. "
In Bhatbhateni the Wendy House School reopened yesterday, but the turnout was very low: of the 50 pupils only 14 showed up.

"We decided to hold lessons - says a teacher, Rosa Shrestha - after engineers inspected the building and declared it fit for use." The teacher explained that the few students who showed up were kept in the garden and on the ground floor, and spent their time doing arts and crafts activities, dances and games, to help them overcome the trauma.

The situation of schools located outside the Kathmandu Valley is worse. The government has included 11 districts in the category of "serious damage". In this area most of the institutions are not safe.

Khagendra Nepal, a senior official at the Department of Education, said: "We have given directives that all schools must reopen on 15 May. We also gave an indication to use only the buildings fit for use; if they are completely destroyed, classes will resume in a tent or in another safe place identified by the teachers. "

Laxyabahadur KC, president of the Private Schools' Association, however, noted that with the approaching monsoon season "it will not be possible to hold classes outdoors or in a tent".

Madhav Prasad Koiral, president of engineering, says that "most of the buildings are crumbling and we recommend not to use them. Almost 60% of schools were destroyed, and the remaining 40% have serious structural problems".

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