The branch school in Marado, the southernmost part of the country, will remain suspended in the new semester because there aren’t any students who want to enter this year.
According to the Jeju Office of Education, Mara Branch of Gapa Elementary School in Daejeong-eup, Seogwipo-si, Marado, is expected to have no new students in 2020. As a result, Mara Branch has not opened for five years from 2016 to this year, turning into a long-time hiatus.
Since the graduation of the school’s only student, Kim Yeong-Ju, in February 2016, the school’s operation was suspended as no more students came to school. The Jeju Office of Education did not immediately shut down the school due to the symbolism as the nation’s southernmost school and the characteristic as an island.
The Mara Branch School, which had two students until 2013, produced one graduate in seven years in February 2014. Since then, classes were held for the remaining student for two years in 2014-15. Although the school had up to 20 students in the past, the number remained in single digits since the 1990s and eventually suspended operations due to the lack of students.
Such a situation is occurring in not only Marado, but also in other schools in islands surrounding Jeju, including Gapado and Biyangdo. In 2012, Gapa Elementary School, which was in danger of being reorganized as a branch school due to the consolidation policy of small schools, also confirmed that there are no new students this year. In Gapa Elementary, when two graduate this year, there are only six full-time students: one in third grade, three in fourth grade, one in fifth grade, and one in sixth grade.
Hallim Elementary School’s branch school in Biyangdo, Hallim-eup, Jeju-si, also has been facing a two-year suspension crisis. Last year, Biyang Branch School was closed for the first time since its opening in 1953. In 2018, there were two students in one class, but one graduated, and one transferred to another school, resulting in the school’s closure. This year, a first-year student who was admitted decided to attend another school, which will inevitably suspend the school.
An official from the Jeju Office of Education said, “Even the suspension is extended, we will not close the school.” The official added that, if there is a student who wants to enter the school, or if there is a demand from the locals, the Office will actively consider support measures.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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