Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Emergency Relief

Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Emergency Relief (121st report)
Assistance for kindergarten and preschool reconstruction: Classes start at a new school building

[IWAKI CITY, FUKUSHIMA, JAPAN, 14 November 2011]

Completed temporary building.

On the morning of 14 November, a temporary building for Sampo Preschool in Fukushima Prefecture was officially opened marking the completion of its construction. As one of the Japan Committee for UNICEF’s (JCU) pillars of assistance for preschool-age children in its Great East Japan Earthquake campaign, JCU has provided assistance for constructing temporary buildings and making major repairs to existing buildings for preschools and kindergartens in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures in response to requests received from the local governments. One of these schools was Sampo Preschool in Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture.

Iwaki City’s Sampo Preschool was severely damaged in the earthquake, and local authorities had deemed the building to be “unusable”. At the end of March, directly following the earthquake, there were only two children requesting the reopening of the school. The children met in one of the schoolrooms that had suffered relatively little damage to restart classes on 27 March. The local government was unable to offer a solid answer concerning when they would be able to extend assistance for the construction of a temporary building. It was then when a director of Sampo Preschool saw news on the JCU website that we had provided assistance to reopen Otsuchi Preschool in Iwate Prefecture and contacted us about the possibility of acquiring help. Although the school is a private institution, the Iwaki City Government asserted that continuing operations at the school was vital for maintaining the welfare of the city’s preschool-age children. JCU thus made the decision to extend assistance.

Cracking in the foundation of the old school building.

At present a total of 94 children commute to Sampo Preschool (as of 7 November; there were more than 120 before the earthquake). The influx of residents from evacuation areas into Iwaki City continues and the number of people requesting enrollment at Sampo Preschool is expected to rise.

The school’s principal Ms. Michiko Abe told us how happy she was about the reopening of classes at the new school building. “We continued classes despite the aftershocks, but the cracks in the building’s columns continued to widen with each shake. Everyone was on edge day in and day out. The children’s parents and I hoped that we would be able to construct a new temporary building as soon as possible. Everyone is so relieved to know that we will be in a safer building now.”

The children cheer when told about the new school building.

The school’s Vice-Principal, Ms. Katsue Mori, spoke about her expectations for future activities at the school. “The children are so excited that the new temporary building is so spacious and bright. There were things we were looking forward to that we were forced to cancel, but the new building will allow us to create opportunities to engage the children with activities and allow them to enjoy interacting with the community. This should compensate somewhat for their inability to play freely outside.”

On their way to their first day at the new school, the children could be heard saying to each other, “We’re going to a new school today!” and “I can’t wait to play with everyone!”

The school held a performance in their new temporary building, where the children presented songs and dances. When their teacher greeted the children, saying, “We have a new school building, so don’t forget to be thankful for what we have been given. Now it’s playtime!” the energetic response of the children echoed through the building.

Children heading out for a walk for the first time from the new building.   Classes restarted.   “Thank you everyone!”

All photo credits: © Japan Committee for UNICEF

Click here for our six-month report »