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May 18, 2011 / Mika Riedel

Between a City and a Citizen

On April 15th, Ishinomaki City abruptly announced that public schools would be reopened on April 21st. School is very important for children and I understand that school should start again as soon as possible. Since before April, the refugees and people like us have been working to make sure that the reopening of the schools can proceed as smoothly as possible.

However, the reconstruction of provisional housing has not progressed very well, and there are still refugees living in classrooms.

So, I was really surprised when the city announced: “We have prepared another shelter for you, so please move there within a few days.” These people make their living here. How can you expect them to move to another shelter on the other side of a mountain?

The school buildings have been damaged by the tsunami and there is still a danger posed by piles of debris on the road. Everyone knows that it will be impossible to start school anytime soon. After the announcement on the 15th, the refuge center was thrown into chaos.

But on the 17th, they announced that they weren’t going to stick to restarting school on the 21st. It might seem like they’re being flexible and considerate of the refugees, but if they really had them in mind then they wouldn’t have made such an announcement in the first place.

“All right, we have another shelter set up. Get moving, you refugees! We’ve got classes to start!”

I wonder if they actually took the time to fully explain it to the refugees in the classrooms and asked them to leave. The city is in charge of both the shelters and the schools, but did they actually have a discussion about the situation and come to this conclusion? It feels like they were just thinking about the refugees as numbers on a sheet of paper. I mean, they must have been planning to reopen the schools for a long time. If they had just explained what was going on to those involved a little earlier, it might be a different story.

I can’t even describe how infuriated and exhausted I am from dealing with this. First abruptly requesting the refugees to relocate and then postponing the relocation? Both the refugees and the people who are trying to help Ishinomaki in whatever way they can must be having a hard time understanding what the city is thinking.

We cannot let this happen again.

Written by Kodomo Hinanjo Club on 4/22/2011.

Translated by Showta Asano and Daniel Sunstrum on 5/17/2011.

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