JAPAN | 310 children transferred to schools outside Fukushima city

Posted on July 28, 2011

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JAPAN | YOMIURI SHIMBUN | 28 July 2011

FUKUSHIMA–In Fukushima city, 310 schoolchildren were transferred to schools elsewhere by the end of the first semester due to radiation fears, according to a survey by the city education board.

Fukushima, whose center is about 60 kilometers from the crisis-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, is currently not included in any designated evacuation zones.

The survey is the first revelation that schoolchildren in areas under orders to evacuate are being relocated over radiation fears.

Among the 310 children, many were transferred by their parents or guardians to schools in areas of relatives or acquaintances residing outside Fukushima Prefecture. Many mothers accompanied the children, while the fathers remained in Fukushima city, education board officials said.

As of Friday, 274 primary and 36 middle school children had been transferred, but their parents or guardians kept their registered city of residence as Fukushima.

The 310 children account for about 1.3 percent of the total number of primary and middle school students in the city.

Among the primary school students, 57 transferred to schools in Yamagata Prefecture; 20 to Hokkaido; and 15 to Niigata Prefecture, according to the survey. Many middle school students have transferred to Saitama and Yamagata prefectures, the survey said.

Radiation tests by the Fukushima prefectural government in June found that all schools in the city had readings below 3.8 microsieverts per hour, the government-set limit allowing schoolchildren to partake in outdoor activities.

But the 35-year-old mother of a third-grader at a primary school in the city is still worried, and has decided to take her 8-year-old daughter to Yonezawa, Yamagata Prefecture.

“Even though we’ve been told that radiation levels are low, I don’t know about effects in the future,” the mother said.

Yoshimasa Kanno, a senior education board official, called on parents to act calmly, saying, “I urge them to consider the psychological stress caused [to their child] by a school transfer while trying to protect [their child] from radiation.”

At kindergartens in Fukushima, 137 children, about 3.7 percent of the total number of kindergartners in the city, were relocated as a result of the March 11 disaster and other reasons from April through this month.

In Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, 553 primary and middle school students had transferred to schools outside the city as of June 7.

Many residents of Namiemachi, Fukushima Prefecture, have evacuated to Nihonmatsu because of the nuclear crisis.

The Namiemachi municipal government plans to open a disused school in Nihonmatsu to accommodate primary and middle school students who have experienced difficulties adapting to schools they were transferred to.

Prof. Mitsuaki Hosoya of the pediatrics unit at Fukushima Medical University said, “Although we cannot exclude possible risks that radiation [exposure] will cause cancer, ‘excessive protection’ will cause psychological stress to children.

“It’s important to eliminate parents’ anxieties over radiation by providing accurate readings and conducting decontamination procedures when necessary.”

Hosoya also said, “As this kind of anxiety is widespread, we intend to form a team specialized in providing care to cope with radiation fears across the prefecture.”

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