Six years ago this week, a M7.8 earthquake in Nepal destroyed over 7,000 schools. Fortunately, students were not in class that day. But loss of access to school abruptly interrupted education for nearly 1 million children. Many schools have yet to be rebuilt.
Nangkhel village was within the declared "crisis hit" area, however students in this village easily resumed classes because their school withstood the earthquake shaking. What was the difference?
Back in 1997, local masons retrofitted the Nangkhel school to resist earthquake shaking—the first in Nepal under a program conceived by GeoHazards International and local partner National Society for Earthquake Technology-Nepal (NSET).
See the story in this video.
"[The] school that we retrofitted formed no cracks or damage, but weaker buildings collapsed." -Tulsi Das Kasula, mason during the 1997 retrofit
This seeding effort sparked the retrofit of hundreds of schools using similar methods by NSET and other I/NGOs, with Nepal’s Department of Education and development partners.
Most of these retrofitted schools were in areas affected by the 2015 earthquake. All survived without significant damage, despite widespread destruction to thousands of schools.
Current students at the school in Nangkhel.
Change that started with one school, over 20 years ago in Nangkhel, continues to make a big difference today. School retrofits and mason training are now ongoing nationwide.
“Nangkhel's story brings back wonderful memories of visiting these schools, meeting students and teachers, understanding the full impact of retrofitting, being able to actually see the retrofitted structure — and then, years later during the earthquake, knowing that retrofitting really worked.”
- Antje Newhagen, who with Paul Newhagen generously funded the Nangkhel school retrofit
By design, the 1997 Nangkhel school program was highly participatory. It involved both the community gaining awareness of their risk and local masons gaining hands-on experience in safer construction practices.
Earthquake-resistant features have appeared in new homes ever since. Head mason Balkrishna Kasula noted, “People wanted trained masons to build for them, so they would come to my house to offer me work."
Models of the retrofit and unretrofit school put to a shake test. “People asked why did one fall down and not the other? We explained how reinforcing made the difference." -Balkrishna Kasula, head mason of the Nangkhel 1997 school retrofit
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Best wishes to you,
Veronica Cedillos, President & CEO
Bhutan · Dominican Republic · Haiti · India · Nepal · U.S.A.
P.S. School damage data: Government of Nepal, 2015, Nepal Earthquake 2015: Post Disaster Needs Assessment, Volume B: Sector Reports, National Planning Commission, Kathmandu, Nepal.