School kids fight the cold and study under open skyKisani Secondary School in Dhaulagiri was damaged by landslide in July and is yet to be reconstructed.
Students of Kisani Secondary School in Dhaulagiri Rural Municipality, a remote local unit in Myagdi district, were happy to be going back to school after eight months of staying home amid Covid-19 fear. But their spirits dampened when they had to spend the day under the open sky on a cold wintry day.
The 19-room school building was severely damaged by landslides triggered by heavy rains back in July. The walls have developed cracks and the ceilings have caved in.
“We were so happy to come back to school but it is impossible to stay outdoors in this weather,” said Manju KC, a sixth-grader at the community school. “We have to sit in the meadow outside during our lessons and it’s getting colder by the day.” According to her, she and her classmates bring straw mats to sit on since the grass is dewy in the morning.
The school building is beyond repair and the classes should be relocated to a safer location, as the area is at high risk of landslide, says Dhurba Bhandari, headteacher of the school. “The main school building suffered severe damages in the landslides. We cannot keep students inside the dilapidated building. It has been almost four months but the school building is yet to be reconstructed,” said Bhandari.
According to him, the school management is yet to take a decision on the reconstruction or the relocation of the school. Kiran Thapa, a guardian who is also the chairman of the school management committee, said, “Preparation is underway to build a temporary hut of zinc sheets. We are trying to manage funds for it.”
The school administration has urged the office of the local unit and other authorities concerned to reconstruct the school building.
“New infrastructures will be built after conducting a geological survey of the area since it is a high-risk zone. Efforts are on to build temporary structures. Hopefully, we will be able to move the students to classrooms soon,” said Thamsara Pun, the chairman of the local unit.
But for the time being, there is no alternative to running classes in meadows even during cold winter days, says Bhandari, the headteacher.
“The school conducted virtual classes from mid-August but it was not very successful. We resumed physical classes from November 23 since the students have missed out a lot this year,” he said. “We hope for sunny days and wait for the school building to be rebuilt.”
The school is located at an altitude of around 2,200 metres above sea level. The minimum temperature in the area has dipped to near freezing point in recent days. Dharapani is located approximately 32kms from Beni, the district headquarters of Myagdi.
After holding a meeting with the stakeholders, the school administration decided to run physical classes in two shifts by meeting the health security standard. According to Bhandari, morning shift runs from 8am to noon and the day shift begins from noon to 5pm. “It is difficult to run classes in the early two hours of the morning shift due to the cold and the same goes for the last two hours of the day shift,” he said.
The community school that runs classes up to grade 10 has a total of 280 students and 13 teaching and non-teaching staff.