Many children are voicing frustration and disappointment with school life due to measures introduced in response to the coronavirus epidemic.
Although many schools have resumed lessons after the nation’s state of emergency was lifted last month, experts are concerned that students may start to dislike attending school.
At one private school in Tokyo for junior high and high school students, faculty members stood on streets near the school holding signs warning students not to speak to each other or stand close. The students walk to school quietly, a drastic change from the lively chatter that used to brighten up the commute to school.
Students on social media and online discussion boards have complained of coronavirus measures introduced at their schools, with comments such as “lunch is not fun because conversations are banned” and “it is no fun being unable to play during recess.”
Some new students have said they cannot make friends due to cancellations of important school events, while others say that the oversight of teachers was scaring them.
Osugi Elementary School in Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward has adopted staggered attendance, with only a quarter of students in school at the same time. The students are seated with ample space between them, with rules introduced to ban the lending of school supplies and standing close to each other on the way to and from school. Lunch is distributed by teachers and is eaten facing away from others.
Several students have said they do not want to go to school, while some refuse to attend school even if their parents bring them to the school gates.
“School is a place to learn about human relationships, including how to deal with issues, but it’s impossible to create a close connection,” Toshiharu Fujishima, the school principal, said. “I am worried about (the measures’) effects on their futures.”
“Teachers are feeling uptight due to their sense of responsibility to protect children, as well as their increased workload,” Keiko Okuchi, head of Tokyo Shure, a nonprofit organization supporting truants, said. “But we should not make children dislike school, especially during these tough times, and make schools a place that children can enjoy.”
“What’s needed is generosity and cleverness,” Okuchi said, saying that teachers must be forgiving to students who cannot accomplish certain tasks, and should come up with clever ways to make activities playful.
“Both adults and children have lots on their plates right now,” she added. “(Adults) should not forcibly send their kids to school, and need to prioritize their feelings and listen carefully to their concerns.”