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Back to school again!

Japan, April 23, 2011

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This week brought an important step in the attempt to return to some sort of normalcy in the tsunami-affected area of Japan. School started again.

The quake and tsunami of March 11 occurred just as school was letting out for the year. The schools that weren’t damaged turned into evacuation centers — well-organized communities, with living spaces, play areas, meal times and information boards. The school yards yielded to military trucks and tents, cookstoves and stockpiles. On some, temporary housing is being constructed to house displaced families.

Here, the new school year usually begins again in April. For most children in the affected area, school was delayed by a few weeks. To make space for the children to attend classes again, some evacuation centers moved people to other locations. In many, classes are beginning in half of the building, while the other half is reserved for sleeping and living quarters, such as they are. Everyone, from the board of education down to teachers and families, have been working tirelessly to prepare for the new school year.

Some children are living with the new reality of living in evacuation centers; others are fortunate to have their homes intact. All have experienced the effects of the earthquake and tsunami that turned their lives upside down. We all hope they can begin to establish a feeling of normalcy as they go back to their routines, surrounded by their community of classmates and teachers.

Mercy Corps and Peace Winds are preparing activities for the children, from creative arts to sports, to extend throughout the year. We are offering information to parents and counselors on what to expect from children who have experienced trauma. But for today, it is simply so good to hear that they have started back to school once again.