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information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise

Not enough children in Fukushima schools

September 18, 2012

 

School authorities near Fukushima nuclear plant struggle to get students back home

 

http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20120918p2a00m0na012000c.html

 

FUKUSHIMA -- School authorities near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant are struggling to get children back to their schools so that they can lead future reconstruction efforts.


Officials in charge of education in municipalities near the tsunami-devastated nuclear power station in Fukushima Prefecture earnestly say, "We want them to be aware of their hometowns and play a role in reconstruction." They are desperately holding events and taking other measures to gather children spread across the country in an effort to persuade them to return to their schools. However, the officials are faced with difficult challenges such as the fact that many children are reluctant to return because they have already comfortably settled in areas where they took refuge.


At a hotel in Koriyama in August this year, there was a two-day and one-night event for a "reunion" for 226 children who do or who had planned to attend one of two public Tomioka junior high schools. The Tomioka Municipal Government had tried to look for a place to build a temporary school, but the abolished school that had been suggested was too far away and building a school on farmland recommended for possible use was banned. The local government eventually decided to build a temporary school on an old factory site in the neighboring town of Miharu in June 2011, and the school reopened there in September the same year. Fujio Shono, superintendent of Tomioka schools, said, "We were scolded by guardians who asked us why we didn't reopen the school early. I want children to connect with their friends and firmly believe that Tomioka is their hometown."


A third-year junior high school boy, 14, who evacuated to Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, after the outbreak of the nuclear crisis, said, "There are circumstances such as my parents' work. I think I will graduate from the school I go to now." A mother of a 13-year-old boy, who is a second-year student at a public junior high school in Iwaki, said, "When his old school reopened, he had already become used to his new school."


Meanwhile, there are schools where the number of students has rebounded. At Naraha public schools, whose temporary classrooms are based in Iwaki, 30 students returned in the summer of this year and 30 more are expected to come back sometime between next January and the spring of next year. The Naraha municipal board of education says it will be able to improve its educational environment, stressing the fact that the temporary school the local government is currently building in Iwaki will be used from the third term of this current school year.


A 50-year-old male public servant has brought his 15-year-old son, a third-year junior high school student, from a school in Aizumisato, where they took shelter, to the Naraha public junior high school that he originally attended. He said he had brought his son back mainly because his baseball team activities were over, adding, "The temporary school (in Iwaki) was also a reason for that decision." He went on to say, "There are many people who are agonizing over which school they should choose."

Number of children at public schools near Fukushima nuclear plant halved: Mainichi survey

http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20120918p2a00m0na013000c.html

 

FUKUSHIMA -- The number of children at public elementary and junior high schools in 10 municipalities near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant has dropped by half from what it was before the outbreak of the nuclear crisis in March 2011, according to a survey conducted by the Mainichi Shimbun.


At schools in four of the 10 municipalities which reopened in the summer of 2011 or later, the number of students dropped to less than 20 percent of what it would have been if the nuclear accident had not occurred, apparently reflecting the fact that those children who had already managed to settle in places where they evacuated did not return to schools in their hometowns. School authorities in these areas have been working hard to try to have children and their parents turn their attention to their hometowns because young people are indispensable in the planned reconstruction of the disaster-stricken region.


Of the 12 municipalities designated by the central government as evacuation zones or planed evacuation zones, the Mainichi Shimbun conducted a survey on 10 of them, excluding Futaba and Katsurao where all schools have been closed since the outbreak of the nuclear crisis, and compared the number of children who would have been enrolled in schools in the municipalities in April 2011 if the nuclear accident had not had happened with the actual number of children enrolled in the schools as of August 2012.


The number of school children in Namie, Tomioka, Hirono, Naraha and Kawauchi dropped to less than 20 percent of what it would have been if the nuclear accident had not happened. Of those municipalities, the reopening of public elementary and junior high schools in Tomioka, Namie and Hirono was delayed until August and October last year and the reopening of schools in Naraha was put off until April this year.


Public elementary and junior high schools in Tomioka reopened on an old factory site in Miharu, Fukushima Prefecture, but the number of students there dropped to 75, or five percent of what it was before the nuclear disaster. Of a total of nine public elementary and junior high schools in Namie, only one elementary school and one junior high school reopened in Nihonmatsu and the number of children at those schools stood at 79, a mere five percent of what it was before the nuclear disaster. The number of students at public elementary and junior high schools in Hirono, which started classes at their original location in August this year after temporarily reopening in Iwaki, dropped to less than 20 percent of what it was before the nuclear accident. The number of students at schools in Naraha, which continued to hold classes in Iwaki, dropped to 20 percent of what it was before the nuclear accident.


Public elementary and junior high schools in six other municipalities reopened at formerly shut-down schools and other places in other municipalities in April last year. The number of school children in Minamisoma stood at 50 percent of what it was before the nuclear disaster after dropping to 30 percent at one point. According to the city board of education, there were districts in the city where radiation levels were relatively low, and therefore schools there were able to reopen early.


Many people from Iitate, which was designated as a planned evacuation zone, have been living in temporary housing units in its neighboring town of Kawamata, and 60 percent of school children remained enrolled in schools in the local municipality. In Tamura and Kawamata where radiation levels are relatively low, 90 percent of the children from the municipalities remained enrolled in their schools.


Okuma has been struggling with the declining number of school children although its schools were able to reopen in April 2011, shortly after the outbreak of the nuclear crisis. The entire municipality, where the crippled nuclear power station is located, was designated as an evacuation zone. When elementary and junior high schools reopened in Aizuwakamatsu, 50 percent of students remained enrolled in the schools, but less than 40 percent of them remain with the schools now. Many residents of Okuma have been moving out of Fukushima Prefecture one after another because it remains unclear when they can go back home. An official of the town board of education said, "If things remain as they are, our reconstruction efforts will be gravely affected."

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