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Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 - 5:41 PM
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To be assessed for quake resilience

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schoolA community primary school in Chiya, Udzorong, Trashigang

Failing which they will either be reinforced or demolished, as per the national action plan
Community Built Primary Schools From this year, community built primary school buildings in the dzongkhags will be assessed for their resilience against earthquakes, and those vulnerable will either be demolished or strengthened, as a risk reduction measure, education ministry officials said.

The assessment will start with community school infrastructure.  If the building of a community school needs to be demolished, its students will be relocated to an identified school in the locality.

“Our biggest concern is the design of the community built primary schools,” the chief engineer of the school planning and building division (SPBD), Karma Sonam, said.

“Community built school buildings were the worst affected during the 2009 and 2011 earthquakes,” he said, adding that, since then, the lower, middle, and higher secondary schools have been built with earthquake resilient features.

This, besides the other four, is a priority area identified in the national action plan for school earthquake safety launched yesterday in Thimphu.

The action plan, prepared by a working group comprising members from the UNDP, Save The Children, department of disaster management, GeoHazards International and education ministry, including principals, specifies measures to be included in the earthquake safety plans and policies of schools and the education ministry.  Global facility for disaster reduction and recovery funded the formulation of the national action plan.

The four other priorities of the action plan are education and awareness, capacity building of institutions, preparedness, response and early recovery strategies, strengthening earthquake safety and disaster management institutional and policy framework in the education sector.

Education ministry officials said these activities from the national action plan are already proposed in the 11 five-year plan activities.  The policies would be reviewed from time to time.

The disaster focal person of the education ministry, Yang T Dorji, said, with a fourth of the population in schools, keeping schools safe was crucial.

According to the action plan, teachers will be trained each year, and every school would have their own contingency plan and disaster focal persons.

“This national action plan would help link the school contingency plans with the ministry’s plans,” Yang said.

The education ministry’s director general, Tshewang Tandin, said teachers are also asked to hunt down potential earthquake disaster risks in the vicinity of the schools. “Since April last year, we’ve asked the schools to go out of the schools and make sure there are no risks to children,” he said.

Among the hazards that Bhutan faces, earthquakes are the most threatening, because it sits atop or near the major earthquake fault that divides the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates.

Bhutan’s two moderate earthquakes in 2009 and 2011 claimed 13 lives, damaged 153 schools, and caused losses of approximately Nu 3.6B.

As of 2012, there were 553 schools, including private schools, and more than 170,000 students up to class XII.

Tshering Palden

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