About 300 million children worldwide are unable to go to school, not because of war, terrorist attack or natural disaster, but because of the coronavirus (“School halted for 290 million worldwide” in the March 6 edition). As a student, I would like to share my opinion about this unparalleled situation.
In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked every school to close for the rest of the semester. My high school decided to close from March 1, and students were unable to take finals. I am a senior and I was supposed to have my graduation ceremony with the juniors, but they could not attend the ceremony. It is so sad that I had to graduate without saying goodbye to them. The school closures caused many problems and confusion for students and teachers.
I wonder how the government could make this decision. It is of course important that we secure students’ safety, but school is essential for children to be like children and to broaden their perspectives through learning with friends. Education is a fundamental right, and children should have the chance to attend school, no matter what difficult situations they face. In my opinion, the government should have given children and their families a free hand in deciding whether they go to school or not.
UNICEF reported in 2017 there were nearly 300 million children unable to go to school because of instability or poverty. Surprisingly, this number is almost the same as the number of children who are missing school temporarily because of the coronavirus, but their situation is very different. When there is a war, children hardly have any chances to get an education, and if families cannot afford to pay educational fees, children cannot go to school.
I feel Japanese students now know how it feels to be unable to go to school. We can sympathize with those who do not take attending school for granted. We need to find ways of providing education to all children, whatever circumstances they face.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.