While a group of teens skip class to hang out at the local mall somewhere in the Bible belt of America’s Midwest, a child in Nepal precariously dangles on a zip line sailing across a deep chasm, desperate to get back to school.

When a massive earthquake hit Nepal, it destroyed lives and demolished buildings including thousands of school facilities so valuable to children in the area. Education in the underdeveloped world is incredibly important and can make a significant difference in the poverty rate of a population. Evidence shows that when children are absent for a prolonged time, the chance they will ever return becomes increasingly bleak.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), temporary school structures in place are enabling 14,000 students to continue their education for the first time in five weeks after two devastating earthquakes rocked the region.

Thanks to UNICEF along with the Ministry of Education and other partners, children in Nepal are taking their first steps back to their studies armed with new learning materials, attending safe learning environments and receiving emotional support.

More than 100 teams of structural engineers are working across the affected districts to gather data on the level of damage and identify safe and unsafe classrooms. More than 1,230 school blocks have already been structurally assessed.

UNICEF outlined some of the work being done in Nepal, accomplishments that may not have been possible without donations from all over the world.

One hundred and thirty-seven Temporary Learning Centers (TLC) have been set up, benefitting about 14,000 children in 16 districts most affected by the two earthquakes.

One thousand, one hundred and fourty-two teachers received training on psychosocial support to children and key lifesaving messages on disaster preparedness, health, hygiene and protection.

Fifty-eight percent of $8 million worth of planned emergency education supplies are already in the UNICEF pipeline.

As part of the mass media campaign, key messages on “Back-to-School” have been aired focusing on the importance of education in emergencies, such as safety, access for all and the roles of parents and communities.

Although there has been success, necessity still remains. UNICEF estimates that an additional 985,000 children could not return to school. Approximately 24.1 million is needed to conduct structural assessments of 7,800 buildings, the setup of 4,668 more temporary learning centers, distribution of educational supplies and instructional training.

Children living in a rural environment are twice as likely to be out of school as urban children. Additionally, children from the wealthiest 20 percent of the population are four times more likely to be in school than the poorest 20 percent.

In developing, low-income countries, every additional year of education can increase a person’s future income by an average of 10 percent.

Women who are less educated are having more children. On average, less educated women have 2.5 children over the course of their lifetime while more educated women have 1.7 children on average.

Women with a primary school education are 13 percent more likely to know that condoms can reduce their risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. An education can help decrease the spreading of this virus by promoting safer sexual practices.

The children in Nepal, as with any other underdeveloped nation in the wake of a natural disaster, still depend on their education. With the help of generous donations and the hard working organizations on the ground, bright young futures are emerging from the rubble.

– Jason Zimmerman

Photo: Charity Today