25 April 2017: children in nepal return to aussie built schools two years after earthquake
High quality photographs of the rebuild are available here. 

A $5 million project to rebuild Nepal’s destroyed schools is nearing completion, as the world marks two years since a devastating 7.8 Richter quake decimated parts of the country (April 25 2015).

The Australian Government and children’s charity Plan International Australia have completed construction of 12 primary schools as part of its Building Back Safe Schools For All program.

The schools, which are purpose-built to withstand future earthquakes, are open for the new school term and 10 more are under construction. Five of the schools specifically cater for children with disabilities.

In the wake of the disaster, Plan International supported 24,000 kids to continue their education in 326 temporary schools. The new permanent schools mean 5000 children have a safe and permanent place to learn.

Plan International CEO Ian Wishart said the twin Nepal earthquakes deeply affected Australians, who gave generously to Nepal appeals.

“Australians have a special affinity with Nepal. So many of us have trekked the beautiful countryside and keep returning to this amazing place. We were among the world’s most generous nations responding to this disaster, the speed and size of donations was phenomenal.

“Plan Australia was fortunate to work closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to get children back into permanent schools that will be much safer places for them if earthquakes should strike again. Every Australian should feel proud of what we have achieved.”

The Building Back Safer Schools project has a special emphasis on supporting Nepal’s most marginalised children, in particular Dalit and Janajati children living with disabilities in one of the worst affected districts, Dolakha.

Manju, a 14-year-old girl from Dolakha, is just one of the children attending a Plan-rebuilt school. 

“Our new school will have a computer lab, library and will support children with disabilities. The school is also bigger with more outside space. In case there is another earthquake, we will have somewhere safe to go, so that all of the students can remain together,” Manju said.

“Five of the Australian-built schools are special schools for children who are deaf or intellectually disabled that go beyond education, to have a focus on ensuring children are active participants in their communities,” Plan International Australia CEO Ian Wishart added. 

“Our deaf school in Dolhaka is educating the community in Nepalese sign language so the children can communicate with people in their villages to reduce social isolation.”

The Building Back Safer Schools for All program also provides teaching materials for children and teachers, water and sanitation facilities in schools and counselling for children and their parents suffering from ongoing emotional trauma from the disaster.

The schools are just one part of Plan’s response in Nepal. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, Plan Australia invested $581,000(AUD) to protect children and their families with community safe spaces, mobile support teams, and information booths for 44,000 Nepalese people, including 27,000 children.

To help with the emergency response, Plan Australia partnered with ethical travel organisation, Intrepid.

James Thornton, Chief Executive of the Intrepid Group and Chair of The Intrepid Foundation said they were ‘overwhelmed by the response’ for their Namaste Nepal appeal, which raised $400,00 for Plan’s emergency response.

 “Tourism is Nepal’s largest industry and without visitors many Nepalese families in hard-hit rural communities found it difficult to earn a living. To get travellers to return quickly, Intrepid gave all profits from our trips to Nepal that year back to Nepal,” Mr Thornton said. “The Namaste Nepal initiative was a true partnership between Intrepid and Plan that meant every trekker that visited Nepal truly contributed to the country’s rebuilding effort.”

Plan International’s Nepal Country Director, Sven Coppens, urges donors and governments to remember the rebuild is far from over.  

“The affected areas are, geographically, very difficult environments to work in. Building schools is not just about providing permanent structures, it is about building an overall culture of safety and preparedness, and ensuring community ownership of these schools. We cannot prevent natural disasters, but we can try to mitigate risk as much as possible. Our aim is to help communities make Nepal disaster-proof.

“Plan International is committed to Nepal for the long term. We will continue supporting communities to ensure that families have access to permanent homes, jobs are readily available and girls and boys – including those with a disability – are able to study in permanent, disaster-resilient schools.”

Plan International’s Nepal response by the numbers

  • Over the last two years, Plan Nepal has raised $39.1 million (AUD) to provide support to 293,365 people, including 120,279 children who were impacted by the earthquakes.
  • 35,000 school children have regained access to inclusive quality education.
  • 190,000 people received appropriate and safe shelter tools, materials and support during the relief to recovery phase.
  • 53,304 people benefited from our emergency food security and livelihood initiatives.
  • 105,052 people benefited from water, sanitation and hygiene assistance.
  • 200,000 people regained access to essential health and nutrition care and services.
  • 102,136 children and communities were supported and educated about ways to mitigate and protect themselves from violence, abuse, and exploitation.

MEDIA CONTACT: Plan Australia Media Manager Jane Gardner | 0438 130 905 | jane.gardner@plan.org.au