KUMAMOTO: Nine elementary and junior high schools reopened on July 13 in Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto Prefecture that sustained huge damage from the recent heavy rains in southwestern Japan.
Students in the severely-damaged southern part of the prefecture in the Kyushu region showed up at the schools after a week of closure.
“I can see my friends for the first time in a while,” said Tomoya Igaue, 13, a second-grader of a municipal junior high school.
While his school was closed, he kept contacting his friends whose homes got inundated through the Line messaging app to see how they are doing, Igaue said.
“Although club activities got canceled and time to study was reduced, I think we can get back to our normal lives soon,” he said.
There were mud and disaster waste on roads to school along the Kuma River, which overflowed due to the downpours.
Some parents voiced concerns, showing hope that their lives will return to normal as soon as possible.
A part of the Nishize bridge over the river, used by pupils of the municipal Nishize elementary school, was swept away in the disaster.
Shinya Amou, principal at the school with 209 pupils, said the school let its children show up freely by around 9 a.m. instead of having them come to school in groups as usual. Some pupils could not come, according to the principal.
“Caring about our pupils” emotional needs is most important. For today, we’ll see how they are doing through talking and playing with them, instead of holding classes,” Amou said.
According to the Kumamoto prefectural government, seven elementary and junior high schools in Yatsushiro, Ashikita and Kuma, all hit by the floods from the river, are likely to remain shut for the time being.
In Kuma, it is difficult to go to school due to collapsed roads and other reasons.
“We’re asking schools near evacuation centers, houses of relatives and other places where children of Kuma are staying right now to accept them,” said Yoshihito Mori, head of a local board of education.