Plan Helps Japan's Children Back to School

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Plan is distributing ‘back-to-school’ kits to children affected by the Japan earthquake, as schools in Tagajo and Matsushima start to re-open for the first time since the disaster.

The kits will help 840 children in 13 primary and secondary schools across the region return to their education.

Schools key for recovery
Dr Unni Krishnan, Plan’s disaster response policy coordinator, said: “Of all affected by the tsunami, children are particularly vulnerable and need emotional first-aid and psychosocial care to help them get through this tragedy.

“Returning to school is an important step towards regaining a sense of normalcy and children must get timely and appropriate support for this. Teachers often have to deal with the impact on children and therefore they will also need support.”

Education kits
Plan’s kits for primary students contain items such as pencils, erasers, crayons and notebooks, whereas those for older students include plastic folders and geometry sets along with other stationery.

Letters and supportive messages from children in Plan’s programme units in China and Bolivia have also been included in the kits.

Krishnan added: “Thousands are still living in evacuation centres where small, yet most essential items, can make a lot of difference. For children, having their own stationery kit and study and play materials on the first day back at school is key and will help towards their return to routine.”

Mixed feelings
Plan staff on the ground report that children in evacuation centres have mixed feelings about returning to school. The disaster, continuing aftershocks and fears of nuclear radiation have left many children deeply unsettled.

A 14-year-old girl said: “In the relief centre there are so many people living in the small space, so I feel uneasy. In school, I feel free. But I am worried that I don’t have the uniform yet as it was ruined in the tsunami floods.”

Emotional first-aid
Emotional first-aid continues to be a vital need of Japan’s disaster-affected children as they start returning to school.

Akira Dazai, the principal at a secondary school in Tagajo, said: “I am worried about how children are mentally affected by the disaster. The life in the relief centre is stressful, even for adults. I hope the school can bring some daily life back to the students, especially through sports and meeting friends.”

Plan is training teachers, health workers and parents in dealing with the emotional fallout of the tragedy on children. A psychosocial training session for 350 teachers has already been held.