kids

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10,000 Fukushima children still live outside prefecture after disaster, mainichi, 3/3/2016

original article: http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160303/p2g/00m/0dm/075000c

FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Kyodo) — Some 10,000 children whose families fled Fukushima Prefecture because of the March 2011 nuclear disaster have yet to return, prefectural government officials said Thursday.

Five years after the earthquake and ensuing tsunami triggered the radiation crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, families with children continue to have serious reservations about environmental safety, according to a recent survey by the prefectural government.

As of last October, the number of such minors who have evacuated to areas outside the prefecture stood at 10,557. Among them, 4,760 were from 12 coastal municipalities designated as evacuation zones in the nuclear crisis, the survey said. The prefecture has 59 municipalities.

With young people absent from those areas, reconstruction may be difficult in the future, experts say.

“We need to implement more measures to improve the child-rearing environment (for their parents) to enable those children to return home” because the children are with their families, a prefectural government official of the children and youth division said.

The prefectural government has allocated subsidies to make medical costs free for children under 18 since October 2012. Since last year, the local government subsidizes moving expenses for those evacuees who want to return to their hometowns.

Some families are estimated to have transferred their resident registration to the municipalities to which they have fled, most likely making the actual number of evacuee minors from Fukushima higher, prefectural government officials said.

There were about 18,000 child evacuees as of April 2012. The number gradually declined after evacuation orders for some municipalities were lifted because radiation doses have dropped due to decontamination works. As of Feb. 1, the prefecture’s population stood at around 1.91 million.

Students hit hard by 2011 disasters suffer poverty, lose educational chances: survey, mainichi, 12/1/2015

original article: http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20151201/p2a/00m/0na/001000c

An organization providing educational support to children who were affected by the triple disasters of March 2011 released a report Nov. 30 indicating that households in which the father is either unemployed or is on short-term employment contracts have doubled compared to pre-disaster numbers.

Many students thus said they believe they will have to give up going to college or graduate school due to family finances.

The white paper, which investigated children’s poverty and gaps in educational environments and resources, was compiled by Chance for Children, a public interest incorporated association based in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, based on a survey it conducted from May to September 2014. The organization received responses from 2,338 households who were affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, to whom they have offered assistance. According to the organization, this marked the first time a survey of this scale was conducted regarding children’s educational circumstances in areas directly affected by such massive disasters.

The report showed that 13.1 percent of fathers in the surveyed disaster areas were either unemployed or short-term contract employees, about double the 6.3 percent recorded prior to March 2011. Conversely, regular employment suffered a drop of 9.4 percentage points, down to 78.5 percent. The percentage of households with a yearly income of less than 2.5 million yen jumped by 8.5 percentage points compared to pre-March 11, 2011 figures, to 36.9 percent.

Asked what their ideal educational trajectories were, 56.2 percent of third-year junior high school students who responded to the survey said they wanted to attend “university or more (graduate school).” However, asked what they believed was realistic, only 44.3 percent said “university or more (graduate school),” showing an 11.9-percentage point gap between ideal and realistic educational goals. Some 13.4 percent of students cited tight household finances as the main reason for this gap. In a similar survey taken of students and their parents in fiscal 2011, only 4.3 percent of students pointed to household finances as a factor in choosing realistic educational paths, illustrating a rise in the proportion of students being forced to choose “realistic” educational paths that run counter to their own wishes.

Meanwhile, a look at the income of households with junior high or high school students who have refused to go to school showed that the lower the income, the greater the likelihood that students refuse to attend school. Students coming from households with an annual income of less than 1 million yen accounted for 17.9 percent of students with a history of truancy. A greater number of students from low-income households also said that they felt they did not have a place where they felt safe, or that they had experienced suicidal tendencies.

“The effects of the 2011 disasters are seen not only in education, but also in everyday life and elsewhere, and their multiple causes — such as household finances and interpersonal relationships — are intertwined,” says Chance of Children’s representative director Yusuke Imai. “The central government, local governments and communities must collaborate to support students by expanding (non-loan) scholarships and institutionalizing a system of social workers specializing in children.”

Local residents to request preservation of school building damaged by tsunami, japan, yomiuri, 3/21/2015

original article: http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002023691

The Yomiuri Shimbun ISHINOMAKI, Miyagi — Local residents in the Okawa district of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, have decided to call for the municipal government to preserve the school building of Okawa Primary School, where 84 children, teachers and other school employees died or went missing in tsunami following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, as a remainder of the disaster.

The decision was made on Friday at a meeting of the Okawa district restoration council, comprising local residents and others. The council plans to soon submit a petition to the municipal government to turn the area into a park, leaving the school building as it is.

The council invited about 400 households in the district to a meeting held on March 8 and conducted a questionnaire survey of the 126 attendees on how to deal with the school building. Nearly half, or 57 people, responded they wanted to preserve the whole building, 37 said they wanted to dismantle it, three hoped to partially preserve the building and the rest turned in a blank survey.

“Although some people said the number of respondents was too small, we respected the result,” said Mikio Otsuki, 72, chairman of the council.

People’s opinions are divided on preserving the school building. While some ask for it to be preserved as “a place that conveys the terrors of tsunami,” others call for it to be leveled it as “it brings up painful memories.”

No radioactive cesium detected for 3rd year in row in 2014 survey of Miharu town kids, fukushima minpo, 3/14/2015

link to original article: http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=486

No radioactive cesium has been detected for the third straight year among elementary and junior high school students in Miharu, Fukushima Prefecture, in a 2014 survey on internal exposure to radiation, according to a research group’s announcement on March 13.

The monitoring survey has been conducted since 2011, the year of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster, by the research team involving Ryugo Hayano, professor at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Science, and members of the Research Institute of Radiation for Disaster Recovery Support in the village of Hirata.

In 2014, 1,265 of the town’s 1,315 elementary and junior high school students, or 96.2%, underwent tests for internal radiation exposure. Similar checkups were also conducted on 1,383 students in 2012 and on 2,338 in 2013, with no radioactive cesium detected in either year. In 2011, radioactive cesium was detected in 54 of 1,494 students tested. But the researchers said it was likely that the 2011 results had been influenced by cesium on the students’ clothing as they had not been told to change before taking the examination that year.

“I guess it is now clear that it is fine (for residents) to live their daily lives the way they did prior to the Great East Japan Earthquake and that there is no need to be overly worried,” Hayano told a news conference at the Fukushima prefectural government office as his team published the latest survey results.

In addition, the research group also surveyed the students’ parents and other guardians regarding their eating habits. Of all the families polled, 76% said they drink tap and well water, and 62% eat home-grown or locally cultivated rice. Meanwhile, 23% of the 1,265 households that responded said they avoid tap and well water due to concerns about radioactive contamination and drink bottled water instead.

While one in every five said they buy rice without any particular concern about its origin, another 13% of the respondents said they avoid eating rice cultivated in Fukushima Prefecture. Similarly, 16% said they avoid Fukushima-grown vegetables.

“I believe many families have been restricting their daily living (due to concerns about radioactive contamination), but I hope they can use (the test results) as reference and realize they can live more freely than they have been,” said Hayano.

FOUR YEARS AFTER: Many schools still not rebuilt due to rising costs, other priorities, asahi, 3/8/2015

For students who entered Unosumai Elementary School in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, they will attend classes in prefabricated buildings for six years until graduation.

The school, located near the sea, was swallowed up by the ensuing tsunami, although all the 350 students were safely evacuated to a hillside.

Unosumai is among the many elementary and junior high schools damaged in the earthquake and tsunami that have experienced delays in rebuilding.

The large number of public works projects currently ongoing in the disaster-hit areas have resulted in a rise in the costs of construction materials and a serious shortage of workers.

Priorities have also been placed on large-scale projects, such as construction of roads ordered by the central government. Subsequently, reconstruction of school buildings has been put on the back burner.

At Unosumai Elementary, 182 students are studying in prefabricated buildings, as reconstruction of their school has yet to be started.

As prices of concrete and labor costs of workers have jumped in a short period of time, the costs of the reconstruction plan worked out in spring 2014 ballooned. As a result, the central government did not approve the plan.

In a process that took six months, the Kamaishi city government decreased the construction budget by making changes, including scaling back the school buildings. It also introduced a special bidding process that selected contractors from the design stage.

Despite those efforts, the school buildings are not expected to be completed until 2017, which means classes will continue in the prefabricated buildings.

“Though the school buildings are prefabricated ones, children are enjoying their school lives,” said Chizuko Kobayashi, 41, whose three daughters are attending Unosumai Elementary School.

The school bus that transports children from temporary housing facilities to the school passes through districts that were devastated by the tsunami. Because of that, when a tsunami warning is issued, students sometimes have to stay at the prefabricated school buildings until late at night.

“I hope that the school buildings that children can attend safely are constructed as early as possible,” Kobayashi said.

According to the Iwate prefectural government, of the 15 schools damaged by the tsunami, Funakoshi Elementary School in Yamada completed reconstruction of its school buildings in spring 2014.

The school buildings of Takata High School in Rikuzentakata are also scheduled to be completed late this month.

However, students in the remaining 13 elementary or junior high schools in five municipalities are still studying in prefabricated buildings or using buildings of former schools.

The reconstruction of Otsuchi Elementary School and Otsuchi Junior High School in Otsuchi, Takata-Higashi Junior High School in Rikuzentakata, and Okirai Elementary School in Ofunato are likely to be delayed for six months or more as municipal governments have failed to secure contractors in the bidding process.

In neighboring Miyagi Prefecture, 15 elementary and junior high schools are still using prefabricated buildings or other facilities. It is taking time for many of them and two public high schools to choose new sites for their schools or complete reconstruction of their buildings.

Completion of the new Yuriage Elementary School and Yuriage Junior High School in Natori are likely to be delayed until April 2018. A relocation site for Okawa Elementary School in Ishinomaki also has yet to be determined.

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