90 kids seen entering new schools in Iitate village, up 38

The education board of Iitate village, Fukushima Prefecture, announced on Oct. 27 the results of a final survey on children’s intentions to attend a government-certified preschool/kindergarten and a combined elementary/junior high school to be opened in the village next April. Of 432 children who replied, 90 (20.8%) said they will "go to school" in the village, up 38 from 52 in the previous survey in August. Covered by the latest poll were children born to parents who lived in Iitate before the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant and those born after the disaster to parents who once had addresses in the village. The children numbered 742, ranging in age from zero to second junior high school graders. The respondents represented 58.4% of the total. The 90 children who replied they will "go to school" in Iitate were equivalent to 12.1% of those targeted by the survey. They broke down to 18 intending to enter the preschool/kindergarten (eight previously), 28 expecting to attend the elementary school division (15) and 44 wishing to go to the junior high school portion (29). There was at least one child intending to attend school in every generation in the 1-5 age bracket and in every grade of both schools. Of 38 respondents who previously said they were undecided, 24 said they will go to school in Iitate while 16 out of 318 who previously did not intend to do so turned around in favor of attending school in the village. Some respondents sought to have means of transport to the educational facilities ensured. Referring to reasons for the increase in the number of children going to school in Iitate at a press conference in the village office, Sakae Nakaita, head of the education board, cited efforts by teachers to convey to parents the advantages of receiving education in the village such as a plan to provide characteristic lessons featuring teachers who will work with outsiders as well as small-group teaching. "We are happy to hear children say they would like to graduate from the school in Iitate," said Mayor Norio Kanno. "We will seek to deepen bonds with villagers and establish a sort of school that will be the core of reconstruction of our village." At present, a total of 139 children from Iitate -- kindergartners and elementary/junior high schoolers -- are going to temporary educational facilities in Kawamata town and the Iino-machi district of Fukushima city. ■School uniforms designed by Hiroko Koshino The education board announced the same day the uniforms of the preschool/kindergarten and combined elementary/junior high school designed by globally active fashion designer Hiroko Koshino. It was the first time she had designed elementary/junior high school uniforms. The jacket is a deep-blue blazer and has a collar for junior high schoolers. The pants for boys are gray while the skirt for girls has a checkered pattern on a gray-blue background tone. The education board has selected them from among six Koshino-proposed design ideas on the basis of opinions from children and parents. Koshino has had connections with Iitate since the disaster, donating village junior high school uniforms for extracurricular activities and offering other assistance. The education board has indicated that it will make education-related expenses free, including uniform purchase costs and study material fees, for children ranging from babies to junior high schoolers. (Translated by Kyodo News)