School Construction as Catalysts for Community Change: Evidence from Safer School Construction Projects in Nepal

November 2016 (VOL. 34, NO. 3)

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Organizations in Nepal have retrofitted weak school buildings using earthquake-resistant construction techniques for over a decade. Some of these safer school projects have been carried out as technical interventions only, while others have been embedded within programs of community engagement, masonry training, and oversight. Following the 2015 Gorkha earthquake, 12 school sites were assessed through visual inspection and a series of community interviews to understand the impacts of safer school construction projects on local perceptions and construction practice. Compared to communities that had received technical intervention only, or no intervention at all, communities that had experienced community engagement were more knowledgeable of earthquake-resistant construction techniques and reported more adoption of these techniques in housing construction. They also evidenced more trust in the school building, using it as shelter following the earthquake. Community engagement can amplify the benefit of future school retrofit and reconstruction projects, simultaneously building social and infrastructure capital.