[MORIOKA, JAPAN, 22 March 2013]
|© Japan Committee for UNICEF|
|On 22 March 2013, Advisor Sato (left centre) and Advisor Okada (centre) report at the Otsuchi Town Board of Education.|
The Future Classroom workshop (see the 170th Report) was held three times in Otsuchi Town, Iwate Prefecture in 2012 as part of assistance implemented under the child-friendly reconstruction planning. The content of the workshop has now been compiled into a report by the advisors overseeing the Japan Committee for UNICEF's (JCU) child-friendly reconstruction planning assistance campaign, and delivered to Otsuchi Town. The advisors for this project are Professor Shinya Sato—a specialist in urban planning, urban development education and natural disaster studies at the Yamagata University Faculty of Education, Art and Science— and Mr. Shin Okada of the Takenaka Corporation, who won the grand prize at the International Competition for the Disaster Recovery Plan after the Great East Japan Earthquake "Wisdom and Dreams". The report comprises information on the three workshops, a record of the opinion exchange that took place with children following the workshops (implemented during class time on 7 December 2012), workshop informational materials and a design policy proposal created by incorporating children's ideas using various technical and special expertise. In addition, a separate "children's report" was created for children to read. In this report, the advisors comment on the models created and idea expressed by children in the workshops.
On 22 March, staff from the JCU Great East Japan Earthquake Assistance Headquarters and the Iwate Prefectural Committee for UNICEF joined Advisors Sat and Okada on a visit to the Otsuchi Town Board of Education and the Iwate Regional Bureau of Reconstruction (Reconstruction Agency) to share the report. The advisors spoke about the results of the workshop, encouraging the Board of Education and Bureau of Reconstruction to work to ensure that the children's ideas and feelings were incorporated into the development of new classrooms and schools: "At the workshops, the children expressed their experience in the form of ideas. The workshops were more productive than we could have ever imagined. While it may be difficult to materialize the ideas as they are, I hope that you will look deeper into the background and feelings behind the ideas and reflect that in the planning of new primary and junior high schools."
In response to the report, the Otsuchi Town Board of Education indicated: "We are going to do our best to incorporate the ideas of this report into the design of new buildings. We were worried that it would be difficult to reflect children's ideas as is into actual building plans, but we are thankful to have specialists derive a 'Design Policy' that integrates the children's ideas." The Board of Education discussed with the advisors various ways for realizing the children's ideas, such as holding an exhibit at the new school buildings that would present the workshops, children's ideas and how those ideas took shape. Kazuya Yamashita of the Iwate Regional Bureau of Reconstruction (Reconstruction Agency) commended the advisors, "I am very grateful that so much has been achieved in such a short timeframe." Commenting on the separate report prepared for the children, Mr. Yamashita added, "The Reconstruction Agency had also intended to create a children's version of the reconstruction plan, but plans were dropped. It is very important that plans are expressed in a manner in which children can understand. This is a great idea."
Otsuchi Town's "Future Classroom" workshops have reached an important milestone for the initiative. Initiative advisors Mr. Okada and Mr. Sato say that there are still many adults who overlook the potential of children. They say that the aim of the workshops is to spread awareness about children and that the true success of the workshops will be when adults listen to what children are saying and work together with them in aim of reconstruction.
The Japan Committee for UNICEF will continue to support child-friendly reconstruction. Two years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake. The advisors of the Future Classroom initiative have expressed their determination to move beyond speaking of children as "victims" to showing the world how ambitiously they are working toward reconstruction.