Schools once used as quarantine centres are now damaged and littered with garbageMany schools in Karnali Province have been left to pick up after the mess left behind by quarantined villagers.
Hundreds of community schools in all 10 districts of Karnali Province were turned into quarantine centres to hold thousands of people returning home from abroad and other parts of the country.
On July 29, the Cabinet made a decision to stop using school buildings as quarantine and isolation centres so the schools can start the annual admission process. The government had directed all local units to sanitise the buildings before handing them over to the respective school administrations.
However, the school buildings that were once used as quarantine and isolation centres have sustained damages and are left with heaps of garbage. The school managements complain that the local units are not doing a good job of sanitising the buildings and repairing damaged properties.
"We had a difficult time cleaning the garbage left behind by quarantined individuals. Almost all the classrooms were full of litter, including beddings, clothes and other wastes. The stinking smell of garbage would hit you once you entered the school premises.," said Gobinda Koirala, the school management committee chairman of Jana Namuna Secondary School in Birendranagar. "We cleaned the school on our own initiative. We found that our furniture and motors to lift water were also damaged.”
The building of Jana Namuna School was used to quarantine returnees after the government enforced the nationwide lockdown on March 24 amid fear of Covid-19 spread. The local unit started removing quarantined individuals from the school building from June last week.
In Lekbesi Municipality of Surkhet, the local unit had the Janakalyan Basic School to house returnees for about a month.
"When the school building was handed over to us, it was full of garbage. We found many bottles that contained urine. It was so bad that we teachers had to collect money and ask a janitor to clean the building," said Deurupa Kathayat, a teacher at the school. She said almost all the electricity bulbs were either broken or taken away and the electricity plugs were damaged.
The situation of Aadarsh Secondary School of the same municipality was also similar.
"We somehow cleaned the classrooms but were unable to manage the garbage piled up on the school premises. Some desks and benches were also found damaged," said Durga Gautam, the school headmaster. "The municipality should dispose of the garbage and disinfect the building before handing it over to us. But it paid no heed to our request."
The municipal office, however, said that it would repair the damaged infrastructure and dispose of the piles of garbage left behind on school premises.
"The municipality is not indifferent to the problems faced by the schools. Due to budget crunch, it may take some time to repair the damaged infrastructure. But we will resolve the issue soon," said Gagan Singh Sunar, mayor of Lekbesi Municipality.
According to the District Health Office in Surkhet, a total of 175 schools in the district were used as quarantine and isolation centres during the lockdown.
"At present, only 10 school buildings in the district are being used to quarantine and isolate returnees," said Chetnidhi Wagle, chief at the health office. “Efforts are underway to shift those quarantine centres to other public buildings.”
In Kalikot, as many as 75 school buildings were used as quarantine facilities during the nationwide lockdown period. The situation of those schools is also similar—piles of garbage were found everywhere on the school premises and the doors, windows and furniture had sustained damages, according to Mahesh Dutta Devkota, chief at the Education Development and Coordination Unit in Kalikot.
Khandachakra Municipality in Kalikot had set up quarantine centres in 12 school buildings. Jashi Prasad Chaulagain, coordinator of the education unit of the municipality, admitted that the school infrastructures were damaged by the people staying in quarantine there.
"The municipality has allocated Rs 700,000 to the affected schools to repair damaged properties," said Chaulagain.
According to Dhir Bahadur Bista, the chairman of Naraharinath Rural Municipality, the local unit had put some individuals in quarantine at Chandra Surya Hotel in Manama. But his office had to pay the hotel Rs 2.4 million, as the individuals damaged the hotel property.
In Dailekh, a total of 249 schools were used as quarantine and isolation facilities after the district saw a massive influx of returnees during the lockdown.
"Many furniture was damaged and there was garbage everywhere. Even the entry gate of the school was dismantled," said Nirak Tarami, the headmaster at Tribhuwan Namuna Secondary School in Dailekh Bazaar. The school building sustained massive damages, as the individuals quarantined there had staged a protest on May 25 over the delay in getting Polymerase Chain Reaction test reports.
"We helped the authorities when needed. Now, they have left us with a problem," said Tarami.
Around 15,000 people had entered Dailekh in the past five months; of them, almost all were quarantined in school buildings.
"The school managements will certainly refuse to let us use their buildings as quarantine centres if we need them in the future," said Thir Prasad Regmi, the focal person at the District Health Office in Dailekh.
(Tularam Pandey in Kalikot and Jyotee Katuwal in Dailekh contributed reporting)