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Small southern island running out of students

Date Posted: 2006-04-01

An island in the far south of Okinawa Prefecture calls itself “the last heaven of paradise”.

Iriomote Island may be paradise, but it is losing its population. Graduation ceremonies this week have promoted the last of its three junior high school students, forcing the school to close.

There were only three elementary and three junior high school students at the school, fewer children than teachers. Ten teachers served the school, on this island, where residents are leaving in search of better jobs and life styles.

“My treasures, Rie, Yukari and Azumi, Thank you for a lot of memories,” said one teacher. “You are my best friends forever.” A warm relationship had existed between teachers and students, something not found in larger schools.

Problems did occur between teaches and students and parents, one teacher observed, but said “we do hope that even big city schools should be learning from this small school. What is most important for children is love”.

A party was held for the ten teachers and three graduating students. Organized by the entire village, the party featured costumes made for the children, a lot of speeches, and a wide ranging selection of local foods.

“My one year experience here was great,” said a teacher. “I knew these three students were my last here, so I made my days seem longer. They were such important hours, and I will always have the memories.”

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