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Lone Brazilian school in Nagoya to shut down

Chunichi Shimbun

Nagoya’s only Brazilian school, Colegio Brasil Japao, is closing down after running into financial difficulties due to a falling number of students.

Many of the students’ parents, who emigrated from Brazil in search of work, have lost their jobs in the tough economic climate and are now unable to afford the tuition. But parents are still hoping the school can somehow keep running and educating their children.

“I managed to keep operating the school until now by borrowing money, but a subsidy from the education ministry ended last year so I can’t keep it going any more,” the school’s 55-year-old principal, Carlos Shinoda, said during a meeting Sunday with parents.

The school opened in February 2007 and teaches students in both Portuguese and Japanese. It uses textbooks imported from Brazil and its curriculum includes lessons on Japanese culture.

The school had 85 students at its peak, but the number started to decline after the impact of the 2008 global financial crisis started to affect Japan’s economy.

At the end of last year the student body had plummeted to 31.

Amid the stuttering economy, many families simply can’t afford the monthly tuition of ¥30,000, cutting the school’s revenue and plunging its finances into the red.

The school estimates that it is racking up an additional ¥500,000 in debt every month.

Colegio Brasil Japao is not the only school facing this predicament. A survey conducted by the Aichi Prefectural Government last May found that 1,187 students were attending 15 Brazilian schools in the prefecture — less than half the total of 2,624 seen three years earlier.

At Sunday’s meeting, officials of Colegio Brasil Japao suggested four possible options for their children once it closes: returning to Brazil; transferring their children to other Brazilian schools in Japan; transferring them to Japanese schools; or standing by at home in hopes funding can be found to keep the school running.

Seven families who attended the meeting opted to either remain on standby or to return to Brazil. None chose to send their children to Japanese schools.

There are concerns that some parents whose children attend Colegio Brasil Japao might even pull them out of the education system altogether.

“My children used to go to a Japanese school, but they were bullied there so they say they don’t want to return. If this school is closed, our kids will have no place to go and we won’t have any choice but to go back to Brazil,” said Koichi Yoshino, a 42-year-old third-generation Japanese-Brazilian from Kuwana, Mie Prefecture, whose two children attend the school.

Jackson Alves Reis, 28, who works at an auto manufacturing plant in Nagoya, called on everyone involved to find a way to keep the school going.

“I don’t know how long I can stay and work in Japan because job opportunities are declining. But if my kids can’t speak Portuguese fluently, they will be bullied back in Brazil, just like they have been in Japan,” he said.

Most Brazilian schools are not eligible to receive financial support from either the Japanese or Brazilian governments, so they depend entirely on tuition fees from the students’ parents, said Kazuko Matsumoto, a part-time lecturer at Aichi Shukutoku University and a specialist on education issues for immigrant families.

The current system means that children’s opportunities to learn are directly linked to and reliant upon the financial status of their parents.

“To avoid such a situation, we need to develop a new legal system that ensures educational opportunities for children in immigrant families,” Matsumoto said.

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published Monday.