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Nepal's Sanskrit students: Nowhere to go but prayers on lips

Tanahun (Nepal), May 12: A small group of students here learning Sanskrit has endured over 15 days of tough, testing and frightening conditions in the aftermath of the April 25 earthquake.

A fortnight after the devastating temblor, these small boys aged 10-15 years have lived in their hostel, next to their school building, whose foundations have been shaken by the tremors and left deep imprints on the three-storeyed school building and their nascent minds.

A gaping hole with iron rods and chipped out concrete showing in the top floor staircase, which has been ripped apart from the four pillars that held the building, paints a scary picture of what unfolded here when the 7.9-magnitude quake jolted the Himalayan nation last month.

The Sanskrit gurukul, Shri Parmanand Sanskrit Gurukul Vidyapeetham, is run by a private Trust and imparts Sanskrit education from class four to postgraduate level.

It has 195 students in all but only a dozen are left as either their homes are in far flung areas or no one has sought to know about their wellbeing.

Wearing saffron robes with Sanskrit hymns written all over, these children now await the reopening of the school, which seems unlikely for the next few months.

With most staff having run away, petrified by the quake and yearning for safety, these children -- other than "informal" classes under the sky -- also attend to the cows, cut the grass for fodder and water the plants.

The hostel building is safe but the school building will have to be brought down, manager of the school Tanka Bhushal told IANS. "Teams from the government are yet to visit us, we will see how we can restart," he said while hoping that some financial assistance would come.

The school authorities fear that if monetary help does not arrive soon, the new session might get delayed by several months. Students from 46 of the 75 districts in Nepal study here.

Most students here are from Nawalparasi and Chitwan districts of Nepal while two students, now back home, are from Varanasi in India. Both students -- Sanjeev Chaturvedi (class eight) and Ankur Sharma (class 12) -- have been taken back home by their families.

Most of the 22 teachers in the Gurukul have since left and are not willing to return until normalcy returns. With the school building heavily damaged, they apprehend that resuming the academic session would not be the best option.

Nowhere to go but prayers on lips: Nepal Students

Sangam Balshyal of class nine still shudders thinking of the quake. "It was a very scary day for us, the entire building... earth everything was shaking," he says.

Manager Tanka Bhushal says it is the gods who saved the hundreds of students who had converged at the school two days before the devastating earthquake to appear for the school leaving certificate (SLC) exams from eight nearby schools.

"Had the quake hit at that time there would have been a major loss of life," he mumbles visibly scared by the temblor. For now, the dozen-odd kids have nowhere to go and are biding their time poring over the Sanskrit books and praying in temples nearby that the quake does not recur!

IANS

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