Two years later, radiation levels in Japan's Fukushima prefecture are only slightly higher than other regions. But parents with school-aged children are slow to return home following the 2011 nuclear disaster. And local schools have seen their enrollment fall dramatically. But community residents are keeping their school doors open in the hopes that families will soon return home. On April 24, Japan's NHK World NEWSLINE program reported on the story of a school and its only student.
It's the start of the school year in Onami Elementary School on the rural fringes of Fukushima City. But it's rather a lonely ceremony. There's only one student, sixth grader, Takashi Sato.
I'm the only student this year. But that gives me the opportunity to interact more closely with my teachers.
After the explosion at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant, radiation levels in the Onami district were considerably higher than in other parts of Fukushima City. Before the disaster in March 2011, there were 30 children attending Onami Elementary. But most of them were taken out of the area and there's only one student left. Even so, the city's Board of Education decided the school should be kept open.
We must take into consideration the possibility that children will return to the school in future. We should not rush to shut down the school or integrate it with another school merely foir the sake of economy.
The Board was swayed by people who stayed behind in the district. Hideo Sato is the head of the neighborhood association in Onami. Like his father, he studied at the school and so did his children.
Children are our treasure and they are the ones who will build our future. School is therefore more important than anything else.
Strenuous efforts have been taken to reduce radiation levels in the area. Throughout Fukushima, the biggest issue has been where to store the radioactive waste. Onami was the first community in the city to set up its own waste storage site. Radiation in the area is down to a half or even a quarter of its earlier levels.
Thanks to the decontamination work its just point-three-six-nine micro-sieverts per hour. Our duty is to improve the environment so school enrollment will rise.
Sato is now receiving one-on-one lessons at the school. Steps are also being taken so he can attend lessons and extracurricular activities at other schools, giving him the chance to interact with other children.
There are many local people who want to help our student so the school can survive.
Next year, two children in the Onami district will reach school age, raising hopes that the school has a future.