5 Mars 2016
March 4, 2016
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
Reconstruction delays are affecting students at 121 public schools in the Tohoku region’s three prefectures hardest hit by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, according to an Asahi Shimbun survey.
Elementary, junior and senior high schools, as well as special schools for children with disabilities, make up the 121 affected schools where normalcy has yet to return.
They are all in 42 cities, towns and villages located mainly in the coastal areas of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures.
They accounted for 14 percent of a total of 851 public schools in the areas as of the end of January, according to the survey covering the three prefectures’ education boards.
Of the 121 schools, 38 schools operated classes in temporary school buildings constructed mainly in the schoolyard since the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, destroyed or damaged their facilities.
In addition, 29 schools still operated on the campuses of other schools or at external private-sector facilities. Together, they accounted for 41 percent of a total of 165 schools in the 42 municipalities that were rendered unusable in the wake of the megaquake and ensuing nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Of those 67 schools, nine are scheduled to return to permanent facilities in fiscal 2016, which starts in April.
Schoolyards at 54 schools are still occupied, at least partially, by temporary housing complexes for people displaced by the triple disaster, meaning that students have to take physical education classes and extracurricular athletic activities in limited-space schoolyards or at locations outside their schools.
Only three schools in Iwate Prefecture have seen temporary shelters completely relocated from their schoolyards in the past five years, indicating that delays in the construction of permanent homes for disaster victims have negatively impacted school activities in the region.
“As these schools can use only a limited space of their schoolyards, it is difficult to give students sufficient room for exercise, and we are concerned about the lack of physical activities and declined fitness among students,” said a Miyagi Prefectural Board of Education official.
Education board officials in the three prefectures said that delays in their rebuilding efforts owe much to soaring material and personnel costs in the region, which has seen extensive reconstruction projects over the past five years.
Cases of unsuccessful bidding have been common in public school rebuilding projects, and such projects’ original plans have been delayed by between six months and two years in Iwate Prefecture, for example.
School officials said the delays in their rebuilding efforts have taken a heavy toll on students.
At the municipal Watanoha Junior High School in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, for instance, students are forced to study in a classroom next to a judo training room in a temporary school building, often suffering a disturbance.
(This article was written by Sokichi Kuroda and Takahiro Sasaki.)