Nepal earthquake: Disaster leaves a million children without classrooms

Third-grade students read in a class at a relief tent after the 7.9-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. The earthquake has left almost a million children without classrooms, the UN children's agency says, calling for urgent action to repair damaged schoo
Third-grade students read in a class at a relief tent after the 7.9-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. The earthquake has left almost a million children without classrooms, the UN children's agency says, calling for urgent action to repair damaged schools and set up temporary learning spaces. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

KATHMANDU (AFP) - The Nepal earthquake has left almost a million children without classrooms, the UN children's agency said Thursday, calling for urgent action to repair damaged schools and set up temporary learning spaces.

Unicef said almost 24,000 classrooms were damaged or destroyed in the 7.8-magnitude quake that hit the country on April 25 and many suffered further damage in the aftershocks that have followed.

"Almost one million children who were enrolled in school before the earthquake could now find they have no school building to return to," said Tomoo Hozumi, Unicef's representative in Nepal.

"Children affected by the earthquake need urgent life-saving assistance like clean water and shelter, but schools in emergencies - even in a temporary setup - play a vital role too."

Government schools across Nepal have been closed since the earthquake, which killed nearly 8,000 people and made many more homeless, but they are due to reopen on May 15.

In the worst-affected districts of Gorkha, Sindhupalchowk and Nuwakot, more than 90 per cent of schools are estimated to have been destroyed, Unicef said.

It warned that the disaster could reverse the progress Nepal has made in education over the last 25 years, during which primary school enrolment has risen from 64 per cent to more than 95 per cent.

Around 1.2 million Nepali children between the ages of five and 16 have either never attended school or have dropped out.

Unicef has set up child-friendly spaces in and around Kathmandu to help children overcome the trauma of the earthquake and provide a safe place for those made homeless to go before schools reopen.