Restoring Earthquake-Affected Schools in Sikkim

The need
On 18th September, 2011, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck Sikkim. Initially, the focus was on damage assessments which revealed that more than 700 school buildings had been damaged, badly disrupting education. However, there was a dearth of technical skills to restore them.

How we helped
To help address the knowledge gap, we conceived a programme that was a combination of rebuilding and advocacy. Four schools were selected for the intervention – one for reconstruction and three for retrofitting.   The idea was for them to serve as demonstration to the State Education Department; and to train some of the local masons through the course of project.

Keeping this in mind, the design to rebuild Sangkhola Primary School blended traditional design with the SEEDS’ ideology of disaster resilient safe schools. It adapted an Ikra panel system (a bamboo-based panel common to Sikkim) into an RCC frame.

At the same time, damaged buildings are too often simply torn down when there’s a possibility of saving them. The retrofitted and strengthened buildings of Tadong Senior Secondary School, Middle Camp Secondary School and Rhenock Tarpin School showcased how effective retrofitting can be in some cases. The schools were now also better equipped to cope with disasters, as were their students through basic orientation on disaster management.

Each school intervention was carried out with the participation of the neighbouring communities and the school management committees. Complaint Response Mechanisms were set up to address any grievances.

The initiative gave 3000 students safer schools, and helped demonstrate vital techniques.