This photograph shows 249 student handbooks sent to Naraha Junior High School in Aizu Misato, Fukushima Prefecture. The handbooks remain in a cardboard box as it is not clear when the school will reopen. (Mainichi)
The ongoing crisis at a nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan has forced a number of schools near the troubled site to remain closed, affecting about 12,000 children, according to the Fukushima Prefectural Board of Education.
Of 54 elementary and junior high schools near the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, 23 of them had to abandon their plans to reopen for the new school term starting in early April, the Fukushima Prefectural Board of Education said. About 70 percent of 25 schools in the off-limits zones within a 20-kilometer radius of the nuclear plant were unable to move their school functions elsewhere, forcing their pupils to attend classes at schools near their evacuation shelters. Some school officials voiced concern that the situation could break the bonds between the children.
Apart from the off-limits zones, the government had designated areas that were expected to receive high doses of radiation as “planned evacuation zones” and those areas within a 20-30 kilometer radius of the nuclear plant that were not expected to receive high doses of radiation but might need evacuation in times of contingency as “indoor standby zones.” Therefore the schools in those zones have to be closed under Japanese law. Across 12 municipalities in those zones, 54 elementary and junior high schools were forced to remain closed and about 12,000 children were affected.
Of the 54 schools, eight in the off-limits zones were able to move their school functions elsewhere, the Fukushima Prefectural Board of Education said. Six out of 10 schools in the “planned evacuation zones” and 17 out of 19 schools in the “indoor standby zones” moved their school functions outside their areas. Those 31 schools that had moved their educational functions elsewhere opened temporary schools at abandoned school buildings or rented empty classrooms at existing schools.
The remaining 23 schools have no prospects of reopening, and therefore their children apparently had to transfer to schools near evacuation shelters outside the zones in the prefecture or schools near shelters outside the prefecture. The situation is such that the schools have virtually vanished, albeit temporarily. The Fukushima Prefectural Board of Education plans to start assigning in early May teachers from the 23 schools to those schools to which many of their pupils have transferred. The teachers will have two posts concurrently for their old and new schools, respectively.
The reason why the teachers would hold two posts concurrently is that the board of education wants to keep the old school names in their titles, a board of education official said. “We are concerned because this is a problem that affects the children’s mental state. But while the nuclear accident has not been resolved, there are no prospects of the schools reopening. We feel sorry for the children. Once local residents start living in groups at temporary homes and the like, the schools could reopen,” said the official.
(Mainichi Japan) April 28, 2011