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KOBE — Due to a worsening financial situation, Kobe will reduce the number of native English-speaking teachers at public junior high and high schools by nearly two-thirds beginning in April.

The move has triggered protests by several teachers, who say they were not given adequate prior notice and now it is too late to begin looking for another job.

Inquires into how and why the teachers were dismissed are now being made by several Kobe Municipal Assembly members and an Osaka-based general union that represents foreign English teachers. Discussions between the union and city representatives are scheduled for April.

Through the Education Ministry’s Japan Exchange Teaching program and a city-funded program, 72 native teachers of English had been employed at 95 schools in the Kobe area.

The city wants only a slight reduction in JET teachers, from 24 to 23, but wants to reduce the 46 city-employed teachers to 22. With other reductions in teaching staff, including early retirement schemes, the city has eliminated 47 positions.

The city says that, with such reductions, it can save 150 million yen in personnel costs.

But the move angered the teachers, who say they were told at the end of January they would be let go. “That’s far too late to begin looking for another job. The city should have given them notice back in October that their contracts from April would not be renewed,” said Tomio Awahara, a city assemblyman who has taken up their cause.

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