Sachiko Asakuno and Mariko Sakai / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writers
Nearly six months after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, many students in Miyagi Prefecture who attended schools that were severely damaged in the disaster still have to take lessons in school facilities that are not their own.
"We are grateful for being able to use another school building. But having our own facilities is essential to providing adequate education," said the principal of a middle school that has been holding classes at another school in the prefecture. "I hope a makeshift school building for us will be built as soon as possible."
Many educational experts say that learning and teaching at other schools entail many inconveniences.
For instance, displaced students and teachers have fewer opportunities to use school facilities than regular students and teachers.
According to sources, students at a middle school they are temporarily attending are given limited use of the science room, the music room and the gym. This is because the curriculum of the host school is given priority over that of the displaced school.
The displaced students have been told not to enter areas other than those the school allows them to use to prevent trouble.
"I feel sorry for my students, because they must be feeling uncomfortable," the principal of the displaced school said.
Students of some schools have to use facilities of several different schools, forcing teachers and students to travel between them to attend events, such as club activities, student council meetings and teachers' meetings.
Miyagi Prefectural Agriculture High School, which was badly damaged by the tsunami, had used facilities of three high schools in the prefecture before its classes began at its own makeshift school building last Thursday.
Prior to this, about 240 students of the farm machinery course gathered at a meeting spot every morning and took buses to school. Because it took 90 minutes to reach their destination, the first class of the day was given en route. As the bus rides were bumpy, students had to hold their sheets and notebooks against the windows to write.
Eiya Kosai, 16, a second-year student at the school, said: "I had a hard time writing. Every time the bus went over a bump, my handwriting became crooked."
Some students on the buses also experienced motion sickness.
Attending classes at school buildings that are not their own has also negatively affected the students' academic performance.
A third-year student at the school said, "I lacked sleep and couldn't concentrate on classes well."
Before the disaster, teachers at the school had spare time to make handout materials for students and prepare for classes to make them efficient and understandable.
However, after they were displaced by the disaster, the teachers had much less prep time, as they had to travel between the school's three temporary locations.
"I wonder whether our students understood the classes enough," one of the teachers said.
Meanwhile, Watanoha Middle School in Ishinomaki in the prefecture is getting back to some semblance of normalcy after it started the second trimester at its newly built temporary school building last Thursday. Students at the school had been learning at three separate locations, one for each school year. They were finally reunited at the new building built in the playground of a primary school in the city.
Sana Takagi, 12, a first-year student whose house was destroyed in the tsunami and who has since been living at her grandfather's place, said: "I was driven to the temporary school by my grandfather every day. Now, I can go to school by bicycle."
Although the new building has thin walls and less space than the original, the school's principal, Hiroshi Abe, 57, was happy the students once again had a school to call their own.
"We were forced to learn in what was like a training camp before. Now we can finally get back to a real school life," he said.
(Sep. 8, 2011)