School closure outside of Fukushima highlights the ordeal of Fukushima children
According to a Tokyo Shimbun report on December 8, 2012, Kaijyo Middle and High School have recently made a decision to close down this all male boarding school. The radioactive contamination in Nasu Town in Tochigi Prefecture, located 100 kilometers away from Fukushima Daiichi, has made it impossible to attract new students and to continue the operation of the school. Since May last year, the students have been studying at a sister school in Tokyo. No new students joined the school this year. Despite the hope to return to Nasu Town, the decontamination has proven too difficult, as the school is located near forested areas. In front of the main gate of the school, the radiation reading taken last month at 1 meter above ground was still 0.5μS/h, and 0.7 to 0.8μS/h over the lawn. The vice-principal could not help but express his profound disappointment, and said “if the damage were only the destruction caused by the earthquake, we could have fixed the school and returned to Nasu.”
A mother in Fukushima who is a member of Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation and heard this news was a bit staggered to find out that there was a school which had moved the whole student body to a safer place due to a reading of 0.5μS/h. There are numerous schools in Fukushima which are operating as usual at a similar level of contamination or more. Actually there are no schools in Fukushima that have transferred the entire student body outside of the prefecture, with one exception. She knows, based on the experience of her own daughter, how much the transfer of an entire school would help ease the mind of the students. The students who have been evacuated are usually worried about their friends left behind, and they have a hard time accepting that they are the only ones who escaped the dangerous situation. Those who are staying behind miss their friends and straggle with the tie that was cut off all of a sudden.
The daughter of this mother, in middle school, was not spared of this heart-wrenching circumstance. She was evacuated outside of Fukushima right after the accident, but she could not move on and missed the whole year of school. Her mother is one of the leading activists, who works day and night to protect children in Fukushima from radiation. It was not until April this year that she told her mother that she wanted to return to her middle school in Fukushima. Finally back with her classmates, she gained her spirit back and she is now doing well.
In selecting the high school, to which she will transfer next spring, her daughter accepted her parents’ wish to attend a school outside of Fukushima. In her application, she wrote, “I want to learn from classmates who come from all over Japan and may have different ideas from my own. I am looking forward to studying in a place rich in natural beauty.”
While the safety myth is the mainstream thinking adopted in the school system in Fukushima, and while the government has done nothing to evacuate the students, there is an attempt made to do whatever can be done to reduce the amount of radiation exposure among the students. One such example is the mobile-classroom started by a school in Date City, one of the highly contaminated places outside of the evacuation zone. In this program, a whole class was able to learn together in a safer place for a limited duration of time. There is a sliver of hope in remembering that there are still teachers and schools that put their students above anything else.
Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation