Narahari Sapkota/Republica Children of Kalikadevi Primary School studying at a temporary classroom in lack of own building of the school.
GORKHA, Oct 16: The classroom of Kalikadevi Primary School at Taple of Gorkha Municipality – 1 resembles an abandoned hut. The roof and three walls of the classroom are made of corrugated sheets while one side is left open. This neither blocks heat nor rain. When the wind blows, everything kept inside seems to be blown away. Safety is the last thing you can expect here as snakes and other insects crawl in easily.
The school is in such a sorry state due to negligence and delay in reconstruction.
"Reconstruction of the school damaged by the 2015 earthquakes started three years ago. But the building is not yet complete," said the school principal Ratna Dhakal. "As we don't have proper rooms, we are running classes in whatever we can manage," she added.
On Friday, when this scribe visited the school, children were sitting very uncomfortably on the floor. While there were wooden planks in some classrooms, others lacked even the wooden planks.
The primary school has 46 students. When it rains heavily, the kids squeeze in the office room
Teachers were giving less attention to the kids as they were pre-occupied with straightening the tarpaulins hung at the open side. Children who were told to write something on their notebooks were hardly paying attention to the teacher. They were distracted by the scene outside which was easily visible. On top of it, they classes were disturbed by the passing vehicles.
"It is very difficult to make them sit properly in the classroom. They keep looking outside as we don't have proper rooms. One side is open and they easily get distracted," said Dhakal. "When we make them read aloud, they do it. But other times, they are inattentive. Writing is something they don't like," she added.
The school had a fine building before the earthquake of April 25, 2015. The earthquake of magnitude 7.8 which killed over 9,000 people had rendered millions homeless. Gorkha, being the epicenter of the earthquake, suffered the worst fate and is yet to rise from the rubbles expect for some parts.
"The infrastructures of our towns and villages turned to rubble in a few seconds. This scale of catastrophic disaster was never expected. But that befell on all of us," reminisces Dhakal. "It took months for us to get back to normal life. There were many areas the government needed to give attention to and schools were one of those. However, many schools are yet to get due attention," she added.
According to Dhakal, the schools are in a pathetic condition due to the government's apathy. Except for a few schools, others are running under tents or corrugated sheets just like this very school.
"When there is no proper infrastructure, any school cannot function well," she stated.
The primary school has 46 students. When it rains heavily, the kids squeeze in the office room, though it is not that safe either.
The school building is being constructed with financial support from JICA. In the last three years, only the foundation has been completed. Rabina Construction is the contractor for the project. The company has handed over the responsibility to a sub-contractor named Bibek Dhamala.
"The sub-contractor has been making excuses. Sometimes, he has been making excuse of the lack of materials, sometimes of rain, sometimes of heat and so on. The rooms have not been built yet," said Dhakal.
The contractor has already crossed the deadline twice. Now, the deadline has been extended for the third time, according to Dhakal, who puts the blame also on the local body for the negligence.
"Had our ward put pressure on the contractor, they would have finished the work by now. But as nobody cares, they don't feel obliged to complete the work on time," said Dhakal. "Instead of monitoring the development and taking action, the authority favors the contractor," she added.
Dhakal stated that she went to the office of Rabina Construction in Kathmandu to talk about the matter. But the contractor did not pay heed to her concern.
"I met them several times asking them to complete the construction, but they did not care," claimed Dhakal. "For them, our problem is not a big deal," she added.
She also expressed sadness over the lack of JICA's attention regarding the issue. JICA should have coordinated with the school, she said.
Meanwhile, chairperson of Gorkha Municipality -1, Hikmat Bahadur Kunwar, put the blame on the contractor's monopoly.
"Contractors don't care no matter what we say. It's very hard to make them work. They are not in a hurry, but we are," he said.
There are several schools in Gorkha which are waiting for their own building. In lack of proper classrooms, they have been running classes in pathetic conditions. Even though the reconstruction authority was formed to address such issues, things are not satisfactory.