Teachers angry and insecure over future

by Jun Hongo

Thrown suddenly out of work, language teachers with Nova Corp. in Tokyo were quick to react to their employer’s move Friday to file for court protection from creditors.

“This was in the back of my mind,” Genevieve Latimer, who was visiting a government-run job center in Shinjuku Ward, said of Nova’s decision. “I haven’t even received my September paycheck,” the 32-year-old Australian said.

Job-hunting just minutes away from Nova’s Shinjuku school, where she taught for more than five years, Latimer said it was her Japanese boyfriend who happened to catch the news on TV and informed her of Nova’s action.

“Teachers are always the last ones to be told,” she said while waiting in line at Hello Work Shinjuku, where she had gone to search for leads to a job in a different industry.

Brent Stephen, a teacher at Nova’s Shinbashi school for more than a year, puzzled over the legal liability of Nozomu Sahashi, who was ousted Thursday as the language school’s president.

“I don’t understand why Sahashi will not go to jail for this. His decisions screwed thousands of people,” the 24-year-old from Seattle said on his way out of the job center.

Stephen claimed Nova had offered no explanation for holding up his September paycheck, worth about ¥250,000, and said he would have to rely on his savings for the time being.

He said he had enough savings to tide him over for 1 1/2 months, but wondered if that would be enough time for him to land a new job. “The job market is flooded with teachers who are leaving Nova,” he said.

According to staff at the job center, which set up a special window for Nova workers Friday, they had fielded some 50 Nova-related phone calls and received more than a dozen visitors throughout the morning.

Most were inquiring about their unpaid wages and job opportunities.

The center, run by the Employment Security Bureau of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, said it will provide job counseling to non-Japanese teachers. However, some teachers fear Nova’s collapse has cost them more than their jobs.

A 36-year-old from Canada, who asked to remain anonymous, said he may be forced to leave his apartment because the rent had been deducted by the language school chain from his paychecks.

“I don’t know how that is going to turn out,” he said, adding he had received no word from Nova on his visa status or unpaid wages. “This is not a surprise, although I had a false sense of hope,” he said.

“The students are angry as well. They claim that Nova shouldn’t have expanded this fast, and I agree with them. This was more about greed rather than having a stable business,” he said.