Nepal one year on: children’s stories of dreams and despair

Days in the childhood development calendar, Education in emergencies

A boy walks to school past the rubble of destroyed buildings in Bhaktapur Pictures: A World at School/Claire Wilkinson


Lakpi’s school is a few battered, temporary tents. It is a 30-minute walk from her home, a dangerous journey because of the landslides.

“The school used to be huge, two storeys high and very long,” said the 16-year-old. “Now it is just three tents that blow in the wind and when it rains we cannot come.”

Lakpi’s school was in the Sindhupalchouk district of Nepal – one of the areas worst affected by the earthquake that devastated the country on April 25 last year.

That 7.8-magnitude tremor and another that followed on May 12 killed almost 9000 people and destroyed or damaged 16,000 schools. Temporary learning centres were set up near many of the destroyed schools – but no schools have yet been rebuilt.

Life for Nepal’s children – watch this amazing virtual reality film made for Theirworld, the children’s charity behind A World at School. Learn more about it here.

Lakpi said: “My school was completely destroyed. At the first earthquake, the school cracked. After the second it completely collapsed.

“I was very sad when I saw the school destroyed. I had been coming for three years. I was worried about my future. I had not felt that sadness before.”

Every story told by Nepal’s children is different – but all are tinged with sadness. Life is slowly returning to normal for some, for others the earthquake has brought nothing but tragedy and trauma.

Muna Tamang moved from her home in mountainous Sindhupalchowk District to Kathmandu before the earthquake.

Mamita is 10 but works in a factory to send money to her family

She went to live with an aunt to go to a better school and get away from an area where child trafficking and child marriage were rife.

“They get married at a very early age in my area – at 12, 13 or 14,” said the 16-year-old. 

The school in her village was destroyed and many people were killed. 

Muna said: “Many girls went missing from the village after the earthquake. They must have been lured by traffickers.

Muna says many girls have been trafficked in her former village

“It is believed that they were brought to Kathmandu with a promise of a job but trafficked to a foreign country for prostitution. Their parents do not know about them.

“About 80 girls have gone missing from Sindhualchowk. I feel very bad to know that girls are trafficked.”

Shamila is 15 and from a poor family. She moved with her family to Kathmandu before the earthquake to seek better healthcare and schooling.

She said: “When there was the earthquake, I feared that I would die.”

Shamila’s home was destroyed but she is back at school

The family home was destroyed and they lived in the ruins until it was rebuilt. She lost her school books and uniform – but is now back at school.

Shamila added: “I want to tell everyone that we should go to school. If you don’t go to school, tell your guardians to send you to school. Everyone must go to school.

Others have not been as fortunate.

Sabita, 15, had to leave school after her family lost their home and all their possessions in the earthquake. 

Sabita works at a brick factory and dreams of going to school

Now she works for five or six hours a day at a brick factory – travelling from her village in the mountains and often staying overnight in the premises.

Sabita dreams of going back to school but she needs to work to support her family and help them to rebuild their lives.

Mamita, who is 10, also works in a factory with her 17-year-old sister to send money home to her family, whose mountain village home was destroyed.

She is desperate to return to school and hopes one day to become a teacher. 

Support Theirworld’s #SafeSchools campaign – calling on world leaders to commit to urgent funding to provide education to children caught up in natural disasters and conflicts ahead of the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit next month. Sign the #SafeSchools petition.

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