Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after Earthquake and Its Impact on Education in Nepal

BY TRANSCEND MEMBERS, ASIA & THE PACIFIC, 15 February 2016

Shree Prasad Devkota and Shiba Bagale – TRANSCEND Media Service

Nepal is a rich country with natural resources. The flora and fauna has really inspired the feelings of the world to be a part of the natural beauty of Nepal. Despite all its resources and beauty, it is also danger zone of the natural calamities. The experts have also said that we have to face several natural calamities in Nepal. Among them we experienced a devastating earthquake of 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 25, 2015 and 7.4 on May 12, 2015. The other is of less than 7. And many more aftershocks are felt which has frightened the people again and again. In this earthquake, mainly women and children are more affected.

Nepalese people carry UK aid shelter kits back to the remains of their homes, 10 days after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the country on 25 April 2015. Credit: Russell Watkins/DFID

Nepalese people carry UK aid shelter kits back to the remains of their homes, 10 days after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the country on 25 April 2015. Credit: Russell Watkins/DFID

The power of life threatening, unpredictable and uncontrollable nature of the phenomenon has really made it dangerous types of natural disaster (Başo- ğlu & Mineka, 1992 ). With the fear of the prediction, and several rumors the people are more afraid of the earthquake. Earthquake is one of the major natural calamities. Without any prediction, it destroys many houses and lives. In the same way, the people are afraid psychologically. Many became the victims of the earthquake phobia. Moreover, the women and children are seen more affected by the earthquake. Nepal government has conducted several awareness problems regarding earthquake and how to be safe from earthquake. But all those programs were meaningless and thousands people were killed, injured, houses destroyed.

After the earthquake, people are mentally ill and the aftershocks are troubling again and again. When a natural disaster devastates an entire community, its survivors are often left with psychological remnants of the event, including general distress and posttraumatic stress (PTS) symptoms such as emotional numbing and avoidance (Norris, Friedman,Watson, Bryne, Daize & Kaniasty, 2002). This is the real scenario of Nepal. Among the number of earthquake-affected people, the more mental disorder is seen among the women and the children. The survivors may have to cope with visions of destruction; sounds of explosions and the rumbling of aftershocks; smells of toxic fumes and smoke; and tastes of soot, rubber, and smoke. So the people being mentally ill are increased. In this sense the school going children are more afraid of the earthquake. They are still afraid to go to school and stay a long time in the school, give exams in fearful situation. So the research regarding the psychological impact of earthquake and the effects that the children are facing has been an area of interest to study.

One year is almost passed, but the school going children are still afraid with the aftershocks, which are troubling again and again. The cracked school buildings are repaired but it was just in the outer part, the inner cracks are just hidden. So not only the children but parents are also afraid to send their children in the schools. Without other alternatives, they are compelled to send their children in the same schools. The case of Sunita is the same. She is one of the representatives of the earthquake survivor’s children, who have lost her relatives and house.

Starting to get some concentration on study, Sunita herself feels that it was again the earthquake that is going to destroy the house again where she lived. Then she throws the books and notes that she is reading and starts to run out. But it was not the earthquake, it was the frighten mind of her and the phobia of the earthquake. Bodvarsdottir and Elklit (2004) also said that, disasters involving exposure to the dead and dying, lingering social and community disruption, and massive destruction lead to severe and chronic psychological problems to the survivors and Sunita is facing the same. Neither she was able to read for her School Leaving examination nor was she able to stay with the family. Even she doesn’t have the textbooks and notes that she had prepared for the examination, all are in the destroyed house and no one is able to dig out and provide her. She has borrowed some notes and books from friends and some from the shop. She even doesn’t have the proper help and support from the government and other agencies for her educational help. It was because of the political parties’ conflict on forming the Reconstruction Authority, which was meant to provide the help, support and compensation for the earthquake survivors. Not only this, when she sees her widowed aunts who have lost her husband in the earthquake, she can’t stop herself crying. The more panic situation is when the small baby of 18 months asks her about her father, all the family can’t stop tears and keep silent. Sunita’s parents, who are responsible to provide the environment for the study, are seriously injured and are still not in the good situation to work as previous, so she has to take care of her small sisters as a refugee in neighbors home. The phobia of earthquake, injured parents, widowed aunt and her small child, small sisters etc are surrounding her, mentally disturbed, physically tired, weak and social sympathy has led the situation more dreadful.

The whole nation is in the terrible situation and suffered from the loss of life, injuries, destroyed physical infrastructure. No one is mentally prepared to settle themselves. Even, one year passed, Sunita is the single representatives of the whole nation, facing the serious impact of the earthquake. But some students of Sunita’s age even don’t have found their missing parents in the earthquake, couldn’t dig out the dead bodies from the destroyed houses and don’t have good settlement. The people whose houses are destroyed and damaged are residing in the tents, seeking the relief programs to fulfill the daily basic needs. When there heavy rainfall along with the thunder and storm, chill cold they have no option rather than remembering the God to save their life. In the daytime they are waiting for their daily survival to fulfill their hunger and in the nighttime they are waiting for another day if they survived.

The devastating earthquake has not only destroyed the physical infrastructure but also damaged the mental setting of the Nepalese people. More than 8500 people are dead, more than 16,000 are injured, more than 5 lakhs houses are damaged and destroyed. In this regard, education sector has also great loss. Many school buildings are destroyed; many students and teachers have lost their lives. Many have lost their houses, friends, many are missing. And the aftershocks have also created psychological impact on the people, basically on children. No one could predict what would happen and when so the only thing people could do is to live in the secure place. And also the social medias, people are predicting that the earthquake will occur in this time in this place and so on. So this unseen fear has again made people mentally weak and is frighten.

In this situation, no one could imagine that the children will study in the good environment and attend the examinations. Nepal Government, Ministry of Education has not yet provided the effective teaching materials, tools, infrastructure in the highly affected areas. Are the school buildings good for the teaching learning process; are the examinations centre earthquakes proof? How could a child attend in the class and examination hall in this situation? If there are some calamities and if students are injured or lost their life who will be responsible in this situation? In this situation are the students mentally prepared to attend the school and examinations? This is in fact a serious matter that the responsible authority should think, understand and apply in the decision level.

School children in Nepal’s Matatirtha village practice an earthquake drill in the event of a natural disaster. A 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Nepal on Apr. 25, 2015, has endangered the lives of close to a million children. Credit: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade/CC-BY-2.0

School children in Nepal’s Matatirtha village practice an earthquake drill in the event of a natural disaster. A 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Nepal on Apr. 25, 2015, has endangered the lives of close to a million children. Credit: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade/CC-BY-2.0

If we see the international trend also in this situation, the best option to make the people mentally free is to provide counseling. So, cognitive-behavioral treatment (CBT) is regarded as the treatment of choice for both adult and child trauma survivors (National Institute of Clinical Excellence, 2005). Children who have experienced an earthquake are likely to show signs of distress. It is quite common, in fact normal, for children to display a wide range of physical and/or emotional reactions after experiencing a traumatic event. Without adequate counseling children are not ready to go to school and also attend the examination. Also the teachers are not mentally prepared and they can’t even control the mental behavior of the children as they are not mentally prepared. So at first students should be made prepared. Willingness, readiness of the students will only tend them to learn. So without these aspects there will be no learning and no value of opening schools. In this aspect, there will be also no value of taking examinations.

Still, people are facing the aftershocks again and again which has recalled the panic days that the people have experienced. In a study of Şalcıoğlu, Başoğlu and Livanou (2007) shows that, exposure to unpredictable and uncontrollable earthquakes and subsequent aftershocks lead to pervasive conditioned fears in more than 70% earthquake survivors. In this scenario, the small, mentally ill children are expressing their views in very troublesome ways about earthquake and its disaster. So, in this context, the alternative ways of teaching learning should be implemented. The formal school pattern should be removed as it may create more panic situation. Students should be provided counseling and they should be focused on activity based learning in the free, secure and fearful situation. Art based and active learning methodology should be focused. They should be treated as per their interest and will to do anything in the stress free situation. The curriculum should be contextualized as per the situation. The local resources should be used rather than the textbooks and the teaching should be based on the social, cultural aspects. The students should not be provided the burden of the textbooks and other works. They should be made free of any situation. Teachers should be play the role of guardian, friends and facilitator which have to create the school situation as home and teacher as the family member without any limitations.

References:

Başoğlu, M. & Mineka, S. (1992). The role of uncontrollable and un-predictable stress in posttraumatic stress responses in torture sur-vivors. In Başoğlu, M. (Eds.),Torture and its consequences: current treat-ment approaches, UK: Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Bodvarsdottir, I. & A. Elklit (2004). Psychological Reactions in Icelandic

earthquake survivors. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology 45(1), pp.3-13.

Norris, F. H., Friedman, M. J., Watson, P. J., Byrne, C. M., Diaz, E., &Kaniasty, K. (2002). 60,000 disaster victims speak: part I. an empirical review of the empirical literature, 1981–2001. Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes, 65, 207–239. doi:10.1521/psyc.65.3.207.20173.

National Institute of Clinical Excellence.(2005). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): The management of PTSD in adults and children in primary and secondary care. London: Gaskel and the British Psychological Society.

Şalcıoğlu E, Başoğlu M, Livanou M. (2007). Post-traumatic stress disorder and comorbid depression among survivors of the 1999 earthquake in Turkey. Disasters. 31, 115-129.

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Mr. Shree Prasad Devkota is a Kathmandu University Graduate. He has completed his Master’s degree in Mathematics Education and M.phl in Development Studies. Currently, he has been working as a chairperson of SDEF. He has worked as a lecturer. He is researcher in the field development sectors in Nepal. He has already worked as consultant, monitoring and evaluation expert in different I/NGOs. Similarly he has published some books from international publications as well as several research articles in national and international journals. Recently, he has been working in the field of education of children, marginalized and socially excluded group, especially on conflict management regarding the post conflict situation in Nepal.

Ms. Shiba Bagale is a Kathmandu University graduate. She has completed her Master’s degree in Environment Education and Sustainable Development (EESD) with NOMA scholarship as well as M.phil scholar in Development Studies. Currently, she has been working as a General Secretary in SDEF Nepal as well as Trainer in TITI Nepal. Similarly, she has also worked as a board member, monitoring and evaluation expert, consultant, and proposal writer in different NGOs in Nepal. She has published her books from international publication and research articles in several national and international journals.

 

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 15 February 2016.

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