Reconstruction of schools likely to face hurdles

Kathmandu, November 20

Out of 1.45 million students who were forced to study in Temporary Learning Centres due to the 2015 earthquake that destroyed their schools, more than two-third of the students are still deprived of proper learning environment as the government has failed to accelerate reconstruction work of the destroyed schools.

A total of 7,923 schools were destroyed by the earthquake. Of this number, 5,223 schools are still awaiting reconstruction. Students of these schools are studying in 12,000 temporary learning centres, which lack even the simple amenities of classrooms.

The cost of reconstruction of 2,700 schools so far has exceeded Rs 26 billion. The reconstruction of all the schools might also remain in limbo as the total amount of money promised by the government does not seem to be enough for the purpose.

According to project Director Ima Narayan Shrestha of National Level Project Implementation Unit, the reconstruction work is progressing according to plan and will be completed within the stipulated time if they are provided timely budget.

NLPIU works under the Ministry of Education which is authorised to expedite reconstruction of schools affected by the earthquake, with directives from the National Reconstruction Authority.

“We are running in the second fiscal of the project and have completed one-third of reconstruction project in the first fiscal year 2016-2017. Since we have already started reconstruction for 1,300 more schools, and are researching for 2,500 more schools we are confident of finishing the task within the timeframe,” Shrestha said.

NLPIU has shown concern that the budget for the third phase of reconstruction could be challenging, since Rs 87 billion will still be short even if they manage to get all the pledged money from donors.

The NRA report has suggested that around Rs 167 billion rupees will be needed for the complete restoration of schools. The NRA report also includes all the infrastructure such as science labs and computers within the predetermined budget.

NLPIU officials have said that Rs 50 billion will still be short even if it concentrates only on reconstructing school buildings and does not provide other supports.

NLPIU has so far received Rs 22 billion from Asian Development Bank, Rs 12 billion from Nepal government, Rs 12 billion from various INGOs and Rs 5 billion from the Chinese government. There are Rs 80 billion from ADB and Rs 35 billion from INGOs and Rs 5 billion in the pipeline, which will be provided in the second phase of reconstruction.

Similarly, NLPIU officials have said 500 schools will not be reconstructed. The schools, which had very limited students, too many schools in close vicinity and schools built on private property won’t be reconstructed according to project Director Ima Narayan Shrestha.

Reconstruction projects go through three modalities :  Federation of School Management, private construction vendors and the NRA. Similarly, Government of China is working to build 17 schools in the hilly regions on its own.

Officials at NLPIU say the total amount of expenditure can be reduced by up to 35 per cent if the local school and local bodies are given the authority to reconstruct and if reconstruction through the private level is discouraged. Lack of proper roads in rural areas, lack of skilled manpower and construction materials, are seen as major hindrances to reconstruction of schools. Similarly, the upcoming elections have also interrupted the reconstruction process according to NLPIU officials.