30 Novembre 2016
November 27, 2016
By MIKI AOKI/ Staff Writer
In a troubling development, the bullying of students who fled the Fukushima nuclear disaster is apparently more widespread than the boy whose ordeal in Yokohama recently attracted much media attention and generated public sympathy.
A junior high school boy in Tokyo also has recounted his agonizing experiences of becoming the target of harassment, which continued off and on in his first and second elementary schools in the capital.
“Unless a person who experienced it speaks up, a true picture of bullying cannot be conveyed to the public,” the boy, accompanied by his parents, told of his decision to come forward in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun.
When the boy evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture in 2011, following the nuclear accident in March that year, he was in the second grade. All he could take with him from his home in the scramble to flee were a few clothes. He could not bring his school backpack or textbooks.
At his new school, he soon found himself being bullied by his classmates, including girls.
“Your germs will infect us,” one said, while another jeered, “What you touch will be contaminated.”
Still another commented, “You are living in a house for free.”
He took down a drawing that was on a classroom wall alongside those of other children after he found some classmates had scribbled disparaging comments on it.
At the school, students formed small groups with their desks when they have school lunch. But students in his group avoided doing so with him.
After the boy tried to join them by pushing his desk toward theirs, a homeroom teacher called his parents to urge him to improve his behavior, saying that their son was “restless.”
The boy finally began to refuse to go to school.
“I cannot stand up due to pain in my legs,” he complained to his parents.
His mother decided to transfer him to a new school only several months after he was enrolled in the Tokyo school.
But the boy quickly discovered that the new situation was not much different from his former school.
A teacher introduced him as a Fukushima evacuee in front of the entire school. Soon children asked him how much compensation money his family had received. They also told him that his family must live in a nice home for free just because they were evacuees.
In the face of such bullying at his new school as well, the boy made the wish that he would be strong enough to persevere through the difficulties.
His mother finally took action to help her son when he was a fifth-grader. She brought up his troubles during her talks with his homeroom teacher.
Until then, though concerned, she restrained herself from speaking out in the crowd as several Fukushima evacuees were also attending the school.
“If I spoke out in a strong tone, I might have caused trouble for other evacuees,” the mother said of her feelings at the time.
But her patience ran out.
In response to her pleas, the boy’s homeroom teacher asked her to “wait three months,” and the bullying stopped.
But the harassment continued at the boy's cram school.
A few children from the same school were also enrolled at the cram school, and they, coupled with students from other schools, continued taunting him where the homeroom teacher’s oversight did not reach.
After a child dropped the boy's shoe in the lavatory basin, he was told, “This is your home.”
The boy mustered the courage to resist when another child, showing him a pet bottle containing leftover food, said the bullying would stop if he consumed it.
The mother, alerted by her son, reported the harassment to cram school officials and the situation improved after that.
The boy said his relationships with his new classmates were good after he entered a junior high school away from his home.
Although he did not reveal that he is an evacuee, he did not become the target of bullying even after his classmates later found out by accident.
“I was under the impression that I was not equal to my peers as I was an evacuee at my elementary school,” the boy said. “Children were in an environment that barely accepts individuality and those with differing backgrounds, and an evacuee was viewed as an individual with an abnormal trait.”
The parents said his family, evacuating from outside the evacuation zone, did receive compensation, but only a fraction of the sum a family from the evacuation zone was entitled to.
The family’s access to free housing will end in March.
“I am so worried about my future because I have no clue as to our life after that,” he said.
Yuya Kamoshita, who heads a group of evacuees in the Tokyo metropolitan area, said the organization received five other complaints about bullying, in addition to the boy’s case.
He said many children from Fukushima are routinely derided as “a germ” or “dirty” in association with the disaster at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
“People around the children who call out those taunts must know about their behavior," he said. "School officials should make a firm response.”