OSAKA — Following the closure of the Toza Gaigo Gakuin chain of English-language schools in Tokyo, all classes in the Kansai region were halted Wednesday, it was learned the same day.
Teachers, an employee at Alles, which operated the language school, and members of the Osaka-based General Union for foreign employees told a news conference Wednesday that the union had only learned the previous day that the company would file for bankruptcy.
A closure notice was posted Wednesday morning on the front doors of all 18 Toza schools in the region. According to the notice issued by company president Kisaburo Sato, the firm will file for bankruptcy soon and its bankruptcy administrator will decide appropriate procedures afterward.
Katsuji Yamahara, the union chairman, called on other language schools to give lessons to Toza students free of charge and demanded that their best interests be taken into account. “The halting of all operations at Toza schools may cause a panic among students and foreign teachers who will lose their working visas,” he said. “It is irresponsible for the president to disappear without offering an explanation for the situation or an apology to students and workers.”
The Toza chain was originally founded in Osaka in the early 1980s by Sato. Expanding its business, the company was divided about a year ago into two schools — Alles and Toza, which operated 16 branches in the Kanto region. All the Kanto schools were closed by April 11.
Yamahara said the school’s management proceeded without a coherent plan and opened too many schools. Sato told the union that about 10,000 students at Toza schools have 3 billion yen worth of unused lesson tickets, and about 100 million yen is owed to teachers and other employees, Yamahara said.
Stephen Vowles, who worked for the chain for five years as a teacher and a member of the administrative staff, expressed concern about students and teachers as well as his own situation. “I feel very sorry for the students; they are like our friends,” the Australian native said. “I worry about many new teachers (who have been with the company) under six months who won’t qualify for unemployment insurance. Maybe it will take six months to eight months to get their salaries back. They have no choice but to leave the country.”
The teachers have yet to be paid this month and their salaries last month were between 20,000 yen and 100,000 yen each, said Vowel, who has now taken charge of the teachers’ payroll. “I bought a car recently. I have a 3-year-old child. Maybe my wife will have to go out to work while I try to find new work,” Vowles said. “But in this situation I don’t think there’s much confidence in the English-language industry.”
Satori Yamaguchi, who worked for Toza for about three years, said she hopes students will be able to have the lessons they have paid for. “I have had a feeling of crisis at work for months, so I’m relieved — but I feel very sorry for the students,” she said.
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