The garden on the roof of Vajra Varahi Healthcare is almost back to normal; Uma Desai has cleared up the smashed pots and replanted flowers, and the chillis she put in before the rains are beginning to fruit. Uma tends the garden and the clinic, making sure it is clean for patients and staff each day.
Looking south from the garden you can see houses and the remains of houses scattered among the green maize fields. You can also see the white plastic of the ‘tent’ that Uma, her husband, her mother in law, son Sijal aged eleven and daughter Simrika, aged sixteen, share with five other people each night. (Luckily they can still cook in the ruins of their former kitchen and use the bathroom, bringing water form the nearby tap). They will stay here while they wait for the government grant they have been promised to rebuild their home.
“It is cold and damp in the tent and the mosquitos are awful. But even if we had a tin hut somewhere else the children still want to be here, close to school, even though they are still a bit scared when they go” says Uma.
Sijal and Simrika attend the Jyoti Daya Co-operative school in Chapagaon, five minutes away from the clinic. When the last earthquake happened, Sijal and Simrika were sitting exams and ran outside with examination papers in hand. The fact they are so close is a real comfort to Uma who is still fearful of what may happen next time.
For Simrika, Sijal and all their classmates, school provides much needed continuity and routine away from the chaos of destruction and loss. In every community our relief workers visited, getting children back to school was a top priority, even when homes were in ruins.
Chapagaon is lucky – from the clinic alone you can see five different private and government schools. The Nepali government has tried hard to make sure each child can have a basic education. Even so, many mountain villages still have no school at all and children have to travel long distances to board at a school some way off.
Government schools are simple and tuition is free, but parents still have to provide school books, stationary, lunches and uniforms. A private school can also charge the equivalent of Umas entire annual salary for tuition.
If all goes well, Simrika will pass her exams this year and go on to college. At 18 she will already have more choices of occupation than her mother. She may even go to university. She and Sijal are lucky; they have two parents, parents who are working.
For children who have lost or been separated from their families, the hope of school soon fades. With that fading hope goes the chance to read and write, to do the simple arithmetic they will need each day to be able to take a greater part in rebuilding Nepal.
Helping children back to school is a vital part of relief work.
Tin sheets give a family a temporary home. A school gives a child a future.
If you would like to help, have a look at our education sponsorship page.