How does it feel when a place you go to study looks like a haunted house?
Sajani Shrestha, a student of the bachelor’s in social work (BSW), says her new campus building reminded her of a haunted house. A few months ago, she enrolled herself at Nepal’s oldest educational institution, Tri-Chandra Multiple Campus, more popularly known as Tri-Chandra College, in the heart of the capital.
Like Shrestha, more than 11,000 students are compelled to study in such campus buildings where they fear what if the next big earthquake takes place during working days.
“The building made me anxious. On the first day of my class, I was afraid that it might collapse. But, with the courage, I faced my fear and I sat in the class,” Shrestha says.
The campus buildings look nothing like those of an educational institution as they have cracks almost everywhere, untamed grass on the ground, plants growing in between the walls of the building, stinky and unhygienic toilets, unmanaged classrooms, messed up notice boards, and whatnot.
The students, teachers and staffs of Tri-Chandra College are at risk because a building constructed in 1918, badly hit by the 2015 earthquake, has never been renovated. Stakeholders say reconstructing the building is essential to revive the glory of the historical institution.
The ignored institution
The 104-year-old Tri-Chandra College has a long history of providing education. The people who are currently in power were also once the students at the college. Prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba himself studied here whereas Gagan Thapa, a Nepali Congress general secretary, was once the president of the Free Student Union of Tri-Chandra College.
Despite the college having produced a number of high-profile figures, its status remains pathetic. The present condition of the campus clearly shows that they never turned back to the campus and thought of improving its condition.
On Tuesday (June 21), the student wing of the Nepali Congress, the Nepal Student Union, started the Save Tri-Chandra Campaign. They have put up banners with the texts ‘Save Tri-Chandra’, and ‘Renovate Tri-Chandra’ in different buildings on the campus.
Earlier, the students also staged a protest on June 14 in front of the campus demanding the renovation of the historical educational institution. However, it is still uncertain whether the government will fulfil their demand.
The nation’s oldest college has three buildings. The building that shares the compound with the historic Ghantaghar (the clock tower) is highly affected due to the 2015 earthquake. Back then, the building also got a red sticker from the government, recognising it as a high-risk zone.
It has been more than five years, yet the building is still in a dilapidated condition. Likewise, the building in the middle is relatively less affected by the earthquake.
Until two weeks ago, the building used to have a class for the Tri-Chandra College’s Geology Department along with a room for its administrative work. However, as the monsoon began, the department had to be shifted to other rooms as rainwater started to seep into them.
The rainwater used to seep into the building earlier as well, but this year it was more, says Ananta Prasad Gajurel, the department head, says.
On the first floor of the third building, opposite Ghantaghar, there is the Department of Meteorology. In the same building, two rooms are used as classrooms on the top floor. The earthquake has affected this building relatively less than the middle one. But, it still has to face the problem of leakage during the rainy season.
The hindering factors
People associated with Tri-Chandra College identify various reasons for its stagnant and dire condition. One of them is Govinda Thapaliya, a former president of the Tri-Chandra College branch of All Nepali National Free Student Union (ANNFSU), the student wing of CPN UML. He blames the government and the college administration for the awful condition of the campus as they are reluctant to renovate and improve the condition of the campus, says Thapaliya.
“They are neglecting the issues of the campus.” He further says that while places like Ranipokhari and Durbar High School, very close to the campus, have already been rebuilt following the earthquake, the status of the campus remains unheeded.
Likewise, no new FSU elections for the last 16 years are also obstructing the development of Tri-Chandra College, he says. There are a number of student unions on campus and all of them have their own interest, he complains.
Thapaliya believes that once there will be the FSU election, the issues will be solved in larger volumes.
The blame game
After the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) ceased to exist in December 2021, the responsibility to renovate the campus has now shifted to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. But, till now, no initiation has been taken for it. However, during the meeting of the House of Representatives on June 14, Education Minister Devendra Paudel informed that the Tri-Chandra College buildings will be constructed this fiscal year.
Similarly, Shanta Shiwakoti, the president of the Tri-Chandra College branch of Nepal Student Union, the student wing of the Nepali Congress, decries the negligence of NRA on the campus.
“Their negligence has compelled the students to study in risky buildings,” he says. “The Education Ministry should immediately initiate a step to rebuild the college.”
After the NRA introduced a master plan for the ambitious Greater Tundikhel project, the reconstruction of the Tri-Chandra College buildings remained stranded. The NRA planned to extend Tundikhel from Ranipokhari to Tripureshwor and proposed to rebuild the Tri-Chandra Campus in Jamal, where the Tribhuvan University Office of the Examination Controller was situated earlier.
“But the students, professors and other concerned people were against the NRA’s plan,” says one of the professors on the condition of anonymity.
Rather than rebuilding the campus, the NRA had a vested interest in making the Greater Tundikhel project a success, says the professor. “But as they could not fulfil their interest, they started avoiding campus.”
However, Minister Devendra Paudel has pledged the campus chief professor Sunil Adhikari to begin the renovation work of the campus buildings as soon as possible.
“Although the minister has committed to rebuilding the campus immediately, it is still unknown if they have taken any step for it,” says Adhikari.