Mountain schools shattered by typhoon-hit classrooms

TAIPEI, Taiwan, The China Post Staff

As most of the nation’s elementary and high schools resumed classes yesterday after the summer break, many students in areas hit hardest by Typhoon Aere were left with no schools to return to. A total of 14 schools in the mountains of Hsinchu, Miaoli, and Taoyuan remained closed as roads leading to them were all damaged by floods and rock slides during last week’s typhoon, which dumped heavy rains in the northern counties.

Some of the schools were so badly damaged that neither teachers nor students were willing to risk their lives.

Yu Lao, the father of two students of Hsinkuang Elementary School (one of the 14 closed schools) in Hsinchu, said he would rather die than send his kids back to a school that could collapse into a nearby river at any time. Yeh Hui-wen, principal of Hsinchu’s Hsiunuan Elementary School (another school that remained closed), said she had waited patiently for two days until a helicopter lifted her back to the school. But she found a huge slope just 50 meters from the back of the school had collapsed.

“I couldn’t help but cry at the sight,” she was cited by the China Times Express as saying. Other schools couldn’t locate their students who had been supposedly put up in government shelters since escaping from the disastrous floods that wrecked their homes. Even for those schools in the areas who managed to resume classes, the sight of seriously damaged campus facilities broke the hearts of many students and teachers. And many of them could only see a portion of their teachers and students coming back. Urging schools to try their best to resume classes, Hsinchu’s education director, Cheng Piao, had to admit there were difficulties. In areas where the central government imposed an order of evacuation, schools simply could not reopen when parents and students were living in refugee-like conditions, said Cheng. “Some school principals say they can find neither their students or teachers,” Cheng was cited by the China Times as saying. But he said arrangements would be made to let students resume classes in places other than their schools. The Education Ministry has ordered local governments to set up reschooling task forces to help the typhoon-hit schools, while affected students and their families will receive cash aids. The ministry demanded the local governments locate the students, so that they can receive necessary assistance. Hospitalized students and parents can each receive cash from NT$5,000 to NT$10,000. Families of those who died in the disaster can each receive NT$20,000, while damaged real properties are eligible for NT$20,000 in repair aids, the ministry announced. But students must submit to schools their applications for the cash aids by Sept. 5, the ministry said, adding the deadline could be extended in special cases. Hot lines have been set up to provide help concerning the reschooling and relief plans: Taoyuan (03)3351589; Hsinchu (03)5518101; and Miaoli (037)325217. The ministry said it will set up video-conferencing links with the three counties to monitor the latest development in the reschooling arrangements.