High on the bluff of the city of Otsuchi is the prefectural high school. For several months after the disaster the high school gym was one of the main evacuation centers of the city where fires burned for up to four days following the earthquake and tsunami. Because the tsunami struck during the students' spring break--and Japanese school years start in April--the start of school was delayed by several weeks last year. But for the students that were able to make it, some were living in the gym with their families well into the summer, and when finally they were assigned to temporary housing, they discovered that they were now unaccustomedly far from school. Because the temporary housing--small container houses of approximately 300+ sq ft for each household--had to be located in areas that were not going to be damaged by tsunamis caused by the strong aftershocks that continue to this day, they were necessarily far from the port town of Otsuchi, tucked into the valleys that snake up behind the bluffs at the outer perimeter of the city.
For those students, these scholarship funds give them and their families just a little bit more leeway to pay for the university prep courses that every aspiring college student needs to take, and gives them a sense that somebody out there cares whether they succeed or fail. For privacy reasons we didn't have an opportunity to meet the students that received the scholarship funds, but the school principal reported that he was encouraged to see that student enrollment had ticked up again this year after a drop following the tsunami. Many students had relocated with their families, going to live with relatives far from Otsuchi, but some had managed to come back. The school was not damaged structurally by the earthquake, so it creates a little haven of continuity to the pre 3.11 world that looks so remote everywhere else in the city.
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