Despair from Fukushima kindergartens


FUKUSHIMA (majirox news) — In Fukushima, kindergarten attendance for spring is plummeting as people leave the area.

While the nuclear crisis continues, there seems to be no stopping the withdrawals from day care. Radiation continues to spew from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after the country’s earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March.

Parents are increasingly worried and are making the choice to withdraw their children from kindergartens in the Fukushima area. Fukushima City is about 62 kilometers (42 miles) from the plant.

Applications were sent out between Oct. 3 and 10 for admittance to 22 city-run kindergartens in Fukushima. For spring 2012, there were 398 applicants for 660 places, a drop of 24 percent from last year. A second round of applications sent on Oct. 21 and 24, produced only 13 responses.

“In addition to families fleeing the Fukushima area, no doubt some parents are also keeping their children at home,” a city official said.

Privately run kindergartens are in even deeper trouble. On Sept. 20, kindergartens in Fukushima opened the “Child Raising Forum.” Each kindergarten had a booth where organizers could explain the special features of their institutions. Nomally, around 650 parents attend in an average year; this year, only 200 attended.

According to Nobu Sekisho, director of the Fukushima Private Kindergarten Association, “Enrollment is down to one-third of what it was last year.”

One kindergarten in Kariyama started attendance recruiting on Oct. 1. Usually, the Day Care Center is entirely booked with a few hours of opening: this year, by Oct. 14, only 40 places of the 70 available had been filled.

In the case of a School Association that runs two kindergartens in Iwaki City, one of their day care centers is only half-full, and the other is down 20%. The School Association has put off its scheduled orientation and individual interviews as they watch to see how the situation develops.

According to a survey that covered Fukushima kindergartens, as of April, there were 19,133 children: however by Sept. 3, 436 children had withdrawn — or 18% of the total. More than half were from the cities of Fukushima or Kariyama, and although comparatively far away from the center of the nuclear accident, it is thought that these families have relocated outside of Fukushima Prefecture.

Private kindergartens must carry the entire burden of nuclear decontamination by themselves. As opposed to publicly run kindergartens, where the entire cost of removing radioactive contaminated earth from around the day care centers is borne out of public funds, the amount of financial assistance private centers can expect to pay for decontamination of their grounds is different.

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