On 25 April 2015 Nepal suffered from a catastrophic earthquake followed by several severe aftershocks. A large proportion of the country was left in ruins. It is estimated that more than 1 million children have been left out of school as a result of the earthquake, with over 50,000 classrooms destroyed or damaged.
In May last year, in recognition of our effective and rapid response during the West African Ebola Crisis, Street Child was asked to work with local partners in Nepal to assist in re-establishing education in some of the country's worst-affected communities.
As we move into the recovery phase of the earthquake response, UNICEF has appointed Street Child as the lead education organisation in Okhaldhunga, one of the hardest-to-reach districts affected by the earthquake. Working with local partners, Street Child has responded by constructing 40 temporary schools and 24 toilet facilities for 3,200 children in Okhaldhunga.
In addition, we've helped to provide specialized training to teachers, enabling them to support students who have experienced trauma as a result of the earthquake and its aftermath.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Street Child continues to work with our local partners to build a further 45 semi-permanent school buildings to benefit 7,200 children over the next five years. We're also delivering educational kits to 300 schools across all 57 villages in the region to ensure they can continue to achieve quality teaching and learning, despite learning environment constraints.
But there is much more to be done to help ensure long-term educational opportunities for children in both rural and urban areas across Nepal. And Street Child believes that our model of work will be incredibly effective at creating sustainable impact for those children.
Education is a critical priority for the government of Nepal and our immediate aim is to continue that focus in rural areas. We are also exploring how we can help address the issue of out-of-school children throughout the country, including the opportunity to bring the Street Children programs which have already been so successful in West Africa, to selected urban areas across Nepal.
A Q&A FROM GLOBAL CEO TOM DANNATT
I visited Nepal in 2013 at the invitation of a Street Child major donor who has supported JKP, a grassroots education nonprofit working in remote villages in Nepal, for many years. I was glad to - it was a great trip and I was very impressed by the work I saw. At the time there was no immediate prospect of Street Child starting outside Africa, but the idea was not excluded. Then Ebola happened in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and the idea moved farther away.
Then in 2015, the earthquake struck Nepal. One of the things Street Child learned during the Ebola outbreak response was the massive difference that strong, locally-rooted organizations can make in a disaster - with innumerable advantages over big international 'ex-pat and protocol-heavy' organizations. JKP in Nepal was a perfect example of such a local organization. We spoke. One thing lead to another and in May 2015, we flew out to Nepal to meet with JKP and just 'see'. We began working with JKP soon after.
Partnership with UNICEF
Street Child had worked closely with UNICEF in Sierra Leone and Liberia during the Ebola response, and so it was no surprise when they asked us to consider working in Nepal's Okhaldhunga District, a remote place hit hard by the second quake but where UNICEF had no key education organization it could rely on. After analyzing the issue and associated challenges, we decided to accept! UNICEF then appointed Street Child as lead education partner for Okhaldhunga, and made a substantial grant available.
How is Street Child doing the work?
With help! That is the skill. Beyond JKP we identified, through referrals, two excellent local organizations who were already on the ground in Okhaldhunga - ECCA and SAHAS. We also pulled in some technical expertise from another organisation, Hands International. Co-ordinated and managed by Street Child, this consortium of organizations is making the work happen. It is the local staff of these organizations, plus the villagers, who are trekking, in some cases for as much as a full day, up and down hillsides to transport materials from the nearest road points to the villages, and build the schools.
So is our Ebola resopnse over?
NO! Absolutely not. West Africa is still our core mission, and there is still so much to do especially in terms of caring for Ebola orphans. But the move into Nepal is broadening our narrative from only being 'West Africa specialists' to that of an organization which helps children into school wherever they are, especially if an emergency has disrupted their education. This is the start of that wider vision.
What else does this mean for Street Child?
People have been asking if Street Child will now become a disaster relief organization, since we have worked on two huge disasters since 2013. The answer is no; our focus continues to be offering out-of-school children access to education. But when you consider that one-third of out-of-school children live in disaster- and conflict-affected countries, it is inevitable that we will be a significant actor for disaster-affected out-of-school children too, going forward.
As it happens, Nepal was probably the one place in the world outside West Africa where we had a 'starter-network' in place through the JKP relationship. It is powerful to observe how effective the Street Child model of 'active partnership' with local organizations has been in the Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nepal disaster zones in 2015. We have secured significant results, and this is how we will continue to operate.
Street Child is about helping out-of-school children go to school, stay there, and learn. Where there is an out-of-school child, whom we can see a practical way of helping, it is unlikely we will ever be far away.