A 17-year-old boy being treated for kidney cancer has appealed to the governor of Aichi Prefecture to set up a high school education program in his hospital.
Yoshiki Ito, a second-year design student at Aichi Prefectural Seto Pottery Senior High School, has been hospitalized for the past two years in Nagoya University Hospital’s pediatrics department.
He received tuition in the hospital to help him pass his high school entrance exam, but has had nothing since.
Few hospitals in Japan offer high school education programs because such provision is not compulsory. Hospitals are not even obliged to arrange visits by school teachers for pupils receiving treatment during school terms, although some do.
Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura has responded positively to Ito’s request, saying authorities will work out what action they can take.
Ito was diagnosed with cancer in his left kidney during his second year of junior high school. He had the kidney removed in March 2012.
He also underwent radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and was released briefly from the hospital in December. Three weeks later the cancer returned.
Despite his poor health, Ito managed to pass his high school entrance exam.
Nagoya University Hospital offers school services up to junior high level, which Ito used. He credits his friends and teachers for encouraging him to get through the exam.
He chose to study design because he wants to become a manga artist. He attended the high school’s entrance ceremony but has not been back in the 18 months since, as he has spent the time in hospital.
In the absence of opportunities to study, all he can do is sit on the bed and sketch whenever he feels able to.
In his two-page letter to the governor, Ito wrote about his frustration with not being able to attend school and the loneliness of hospital life.
He wrote about his desire to study design. He also mentioned his hopes that high school students in a similar situation in the future will have an alternative, urging the governor to establish a hospital high school education program.
Only two regions offer such a program in Japan — Tokyo and Okinawa — although in other areas hospital visits by teachers are slowly on the rise.
In 2011, Suzunosuke Kubota from Osaka Prefecture, who later died at the age of 18, made a similar request in an email message to Toru Hashimoto, mayor of Osaka.
That appeal resulted in part-time teachers being dispatched to the hospital, and 26 patients have since benefited from the service in Osaka.
Another high school education program started this September in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, after 17-year-old Hinako Sano wrote a letter to Gov. Yuji Kuroiwa.
Teachers from Sano’s former school began coming to the hospital to help her continue her studies.
“I heard what Kubota did from the hospital staff and I wanted to do something as well,” said Ito.
Ito’s condition is severe. He is undergoing intensive treatment to stop the cancer from spreading.
In April, his doctor informed him that “there is nothing more we can do at this point.”
“There might not be any hope for recovery, but I don’t want to give up on my life. I’ve always wanted to attend high school and I don’t want my life to end without that experience,” the 17-year-old said.
“These children battling illnesses have indicated a keen interest in studying, so it’s our duty as adults to grant their wishes. We’ll talk it over with those responsible and figure out the best way to proceed,” said Gov. Omura.
Hospital schooling comprises classes for school-age children receiving long-term treatment for chronic illnesses. Programs are drawn up by the local education committee.
Classes follow a flexible curriculum that gives special consideration to the patients’ health, with lessons conducted either in classrooms or hospital rooms.
Currently, only 30% of all hospitals with a pediatrics department offer schooling.
This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on Oct. 19.