Photo/IllutrationWork is under way to demolish a concrete block wall around an elementary school in Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on July 6. (Kunihiro Hayashi)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Thousands of schools across Japan were found to have structurally deficient concrete block walls on their premises, an issue of huge concern after one collapsed in an earthquake in June, killing a school girl.

A study ordered by the education ministry after the tragedy in Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture, ascertained that more than 12,000 schools nationwide have problem walls.

A 9-year-old girl was killed June 18 when a wall collapsed as she made her way to her elementary school in northern Osaka Prefecture.

The study findings, announced Aug. 10, covered 51,085 public and private elementary, junior and senior high schools, as well as kindergartens. It found that 12,640 schools had problem walls, either because they did not meet safety standards concerning height or reinforcement or were simply dilapidated.

Over 80 percent of the schools have taken some action to address the safety issues, such as tearing down the walls, but around 2,500 schools still have problem walls.

The ministry will issue a notice to those schools requesting that they take immediate action to maintain safety.

Of the schools covered in the study, 19,921 said they had concrete block walls.

Prefectures with the largest number of problem concrete block walls were Osaka with 1,180 schools, Tokyo with 778, Fukuoka with 777 and Saitama with 722.

"We had focused our interest on strengthening school buildings against earthquakes," said a ministry official, referring to the large number of schools found to have safety problems with their walls.

The official noted that there was insufficient awareness of the problem "among school operators and the ministry" prior to the earthquake.

The ministry will seek budgetary funds to provide subsidies to schools that decide to remove their problem concrete block walls.

(The education ministry later corrected the figures. Please see the article at