Only 38 percent of public and private schools across Japan managed to begin their new academic year this month with students in classrooms amid the coronavirus epidemic, the education ministry said.
But in Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka and the four other prefectures placed under a state of emergency by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government last week, the proportion was a mere 6 percent, according to data compiled by the ministry as of Friday.
New school terms typically begin in early April. Even before requesting the public, especially in the seven designated prefectures, to stay home as much as possible, Abe asked elementary, junior high and high schools nationwide to shut for about one month from early March through the end of the spring break.
The data, covering public, state-run and private educational institutions from preschools through high schools, showed that 55 percent in the other 40 prefectures started the new term.
But all public and national schools in the seven prefectures remained closed, while 24 percent of private schools, including preschools, opened their facilities.
In other regions, 52 percent of public, 40 percent of national and 75 percent of private schools opened for the new term.
Of 900 universities and vocational colleges responding to the ministry’s survey, 85.8 percent said they have decided to postpone the start of the new academic year or were still considering whether to change the schedule.
None of the universities and colleges in the seven prefectures said they would be holding classes as usual, while 4 percent in other regions of the country said they would.
As for online classes, 74.4 percent of national universities said they would hold them, compared with 46 percent of private universities and 32.7 percent of vocational colleges.
In a bid to prevent the further spread of the virus, Abe on April 7 declared a monthlong state of emergency for the seven prefectures with big urban populations, also including Chiba, Hyogo, Kanagawa and Saitama, which have been grappling with a spike in coronavirus cases.
The declaration, based on a revised law enacted last month, gave the governors of the seven prefectures the power to call for school and some business closures until this year’s Golden Week holidays end May 6.
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