Safety Of Children Uppermost In Everyone's Mind

Save Our Children in Nepal

One of the badly affected fields on account of two earthquakes that struck Nepal having different epicenters is education. The first jolt was on 25 April and the second on 12 May. The 7.8 magnitude quake of April 25 this year is the biggest one in the history of seismography of Nepal after the catastrophic earthquake of 15 January, 1934 during the regime of Rana prime minister Juddha Shumser. Like in 1934, the earthquake this year destroyed thousands of houses, in many places in central Nepal the entire settlements turned into rubbles.

Those who constructed their houses before 1934 weren’t acquainted with the scientific reason of the quake, precautions to be taken and houses to be earthquake-resistant barely deserve blames, but the ones who built their houses after that year are as equally responsible as the government inasmuch as they stressed the storeys rather than the foundation of their houses. Houses are made with the hope of serving a safe place; however, we people have been so materialistic and self-centered that we’ve forgotten to give a little attention to our safety and of those who live around us. The government officials which is supposed to monitor building houses and enforce strict building regulations to construct quake-resistant houses to minimise possible casualties was silenced by the bribery.

Most of the ordinary people, contractors, house agents etc aren’t that concerned with the strength of the house they build as we have felt earthquakes between long gaps of time. As we know death doesn’t keep a calendar and neither do casualties. When the first quake of 2015 rocked Nepal, the weather was dark. So, people have started to stereotype dark weather as a curse. There’s a stereotypical belief that Saturdays and Tuesdays aren’t considered a good time to start something new. Coincidently, the two quakes rocked Nepal on these days. As the major quake was followed by aftershocks, it sent both the landlords and tenants to the open and forced to live under the tents and tarpaulins. There’s no air of professional, social, religious and financial hierarchy. If someone analyses it from a positive standpoint, it made the wealthy or affluent ones realise that their wealth and pride don’t stop any natural disasters in their life.

On the one hand, the seismologists and government officials were trying to comfort the public saying aftershocks were natural and essential to arrange displaced plates underground. The May 12 quake too added to the panic of the people. This year’s quake has also proved that there is no God and cannot show any mercy. More than 90 per cent of the poor villagers have been badly hit. Some famous temples, which are believed to be a home of God, couldn’t resist the tremors and were reduced to rubble. On the other hand, some people believe that quake-affected districts: Gorkha, Rasuwa, Dahding, Dolakha and Sindhupalchowk were doomed to such a terrible disaster. I once was going to my rented house by bus, two passengers got into a heated argument as one of them said the people of Sindhupalchwok district should’ve committed a sin and it should’ve spelt disaster. People seem to be curious to know the amount of damage rather than be mournful. Yes, it isn’t time to point to each other but to figure out the quick solution to their problems. It’s time to be part of their irreparable loss. It’s time to mourn for the entire nation.

In the beginning, international help offers came like a flood. Later the government said the media exaggerated the value and amount of international assistance. The government set up the Prime Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund so as to channel the money into the quake-hit areas and the victims. Contrarily, people have a sneaking suspicion whether the government is going to use it for the genuine victims. And it is not unusual to have such suspicion as corruption has been rampant in almost all sectors.

This year many small clubs, organisations, associations etc whose existence was on the verge of extinction got a golden opportunity to play a little role in helping but publicise widely their personal blogs, websites, organisations, nominal institutions and clubs. Besides, some organisations were merely videoing their shallow roles, shallow distress and helping their acquaintances, relatives, friends who were no longer in dire need of assistance to raise organisations’ and their personal profiles. There was an air of selfishness.

The media has also been criticised for presenting misleading information, being blind to the feelings and sensitivity of the victims. Some pictures of the injured, the dead and the houses reduced to rubble without editing were published. The word ‘biggest quake’ (Mahabhukampa) has been used inappropriately. This is the second biggest not the biggest one. The frequent use of this word has struck terror into the heart of people. Also, the people have been traumatised. The destructions caused by the quakes have been taken just as a source and material of news to hit the headlines by news channels across the world.

According to officials, more than 25,000 classrooms in some 8,000 schools have been destroyed and more than 8,000 people lost their lives in the two quakes. Some schools have set up makeshift classrooms, as we all know there is no compromise between risk and safety. Schools are the crowded places and schoolchildren are the most vulnerable to such catastrophes, so the safety of schoolchildren should be uppermost in the minds of the concerned. Likewise, popular schools and colleges in the valleys have started running classes despite the red stickers (unsafe). Some schools are yet to be inspected by a team of expertise though classes have resumed. Some wealthy schools have accused of buying the green stickers (safe) from the authorised officials to run classes smoothly. This is deceit and a crime.

In Kathmandu, most of the students, on the contrary to many people’s expectations, after classes resumed on Jestha 17 weren’t traumatised. They didn’t seem to get into a panic. In a few schools, teachers were trained to evacuate students in case of another quake and psychological therapy was held to allay their fear in advance. Students are enjoying aftershocks, and they are enjoying the topic of earthquakes. When the students are asked to do ‘drop, cover and hold on’ practice on the school premises, the majority of them take it lightly; they do it because they have to do. The government-funded schools have suffered more damage and destruction than the individually funded strong buildings. Many of the schools in the Kathmandu valley don’t have big playgrounds and alternative exits.

The government doesn’t have any ground to take action against schools that are turning their deaf ears to the instruction of the government not to run classes if the school has been labeled unsafe. What if the school operators shut down their schools for the period of uncertainty? Where will the students go? Students cannot bear one year’s loss. The government’s instruction isn’t practical and mature enough. The government shouldn’t have granted permission to the schools which didn’t meet all criteria. Most of the private schools in the city areas are houses with almost no gardens and playgrounds. People rent a house and run classes. The government should rather come up with a practical idea.