• Kyodo

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A new school has opened in the northeastern town of Onagawa, where hundreds of lives were lost in the 2011 quake and tsunami, with help from a government of Qatar relief fund.

A ¥1 billion ($9.4 million) contribution from the state helped cover some of the ¥5.3 billion spent on the project to build a municipality-run school for elementary and junior high school students in the Miyagi Prefecture community. The Japanese government also extended subsidies for the project.

Qatar’s involvement in the project began in 2012 when former Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani launched the Qatar Friendship Fund, a $100 million aid fund intended to assist areas of northeastern Japan devastated by the disaster and in need of reconstruction.

Speaking at an opening ceremony Sunday at Onagawa Elementary and Junior High School, Hinako Endo, 12, a student representative, said, “The town has been reborn. I want to learn and grow up with a big dream in my heart.”

“I will make efforts so I can inherit and prosper the town’s history and tradition,” the sixth-grader said.

An opening ceremony of Onagawa Elementary and Junior High School in Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture, is held at its gymnasium Sunday. | KYODO
An opening ceremony of Onagawa Elementary and Junior High School in Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture, is held at its gymnasium Sunday. | KYODO

Only 55 out of the school’s 299 students were allowed to attend the ceremony held in the gymnasium due to precautions against coronavirus infection.

The event was live-streamed for other pupils to see in their new classrooms.

The four-story schoolhouse is equipped with solar panels so it can provide town residents with shelter and power in time of a disaster.

The fishing town has suffered a decrease in population since the quake and tsunami claimed some 800 lives, forcing three local elementary schools and two junior highs to shutter and integrate into the new school built on a hill at the central part of the town.

In addition to building a strong friendship between the people of Japan and the gas-rich Middle East state, the Qatari fund focuses on four areas — education of children, restoration of fisheries, provision of health care and assistance to enterprises — in aiding rehabilitation efforts in calamity-hit areas.

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