Last week Education International had the opportunity to experience first-hand the devastation inflicted on Nepal after two major earthquakes rocked the country to its core, leaving communities in ruin and lives forever changed.
However, in spite of the destruction and fears that the earth may shake again, the powerful resolve of the people left a permanent impression on the delegation, which was led by Education International (EI) General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. And nowhere was this more evident than within the teaching ranks.
Sixty-two teachers and support staff lost their lives to the earthquakes, and the lives of countless others have been abruptly altered. Many are without homes, and many have lost friends and family.
The combination of damaged schools being placed off limits and safe schools being used as shelters has led the government to suspend all education activities until at least the 1st of June. The closures account for 950,000 students left without classes to attend. Due to this perilous situation there are even fears that a path has been cleared to allow for-profit private schools to take the place of the shuttered public ones.
Despite the daunting conditions, the country’s educators did not hesitate to help their colleagues and their fellow citizens.
The EI delegation visited six schools during the mission, allowing for the chance to meet the teachers and school principals working to get education back up and running.
· in Katmandu: the Rupak Memorial Private School, the Adarsha Kanya Public School and the Nava Adarsh Public School
· in Khokana: the Rudrayani Public School
· in Bhaktapur: the Tri-Padma Public School and the Sharada Public School
While some of the schools remain operational, the majority suffered major damages that prevent classes from being reopened.
The delegation also met with representatives from the three EI affiliates, the NNTA, NTA, and ISTU, as well as representatives of the teachers’ confederation CNT.
Education International learned from the affiliates that all of their members agreed to donate five days salary, equalling six million dollars, to the prime ministers disaster relief fund. And in addition, they donated another day’s pay to help their colleagues in need.
“I am so proud of our members for reacting so quickly,” said Van Leeuwen during his meeting with union leaders in Kathmandu. “I admire that.” The meeting, which also included Nepal’s Minister of Education, Ms. Chitra Lekha Yadav, focused on the unions’ greatest needs and where solidarity funds should be directed. The minister applauded the unions for working together to find solutions rather than wait for government help, which is in short supply.
"Teachers are the real stakeholders," said Minister Lekha Yadav, adding that the "ministry is the real partner of teachers" because "education is most important for all development."
The NTA, NNTA and ISTU have agreed that the following priorities should be set for EI’s relief and solidarity program:
· relief to the families of 62 teachers and support staff who were killed in the earthquakes on 25 April and 13 May and to the teachers and support staff who have lost their homes;
· trauma counselling programs for teachers and students
· Repair and reconstruction of union buildings
With the priorities focused on empowering members to help their students, it will be up to the government to find suitable solutions to replacing or repairing the 6,900 schools confirmed damaged or destroyed.
With a long road ahead to recovery, Education International is asking for contributions to the Relief and Solidarity Fund to support Nepal’s teachers unions, their members and students:
Avenue Marnix, 24, B-1000 Brussels - Belgium
IBAN: BE05 3101 0061 7075
Including the reference “Solidarity with Nepal”
For more information, please contact Nicolas Richard, EI Senior Coordinator, Solidarity and Development: Nicolas.Richards@ei-ie.org