• Kyodo, Staff Report


A certified private nursery in Hyogo Prefecture may lose its public funding after it was found to be secretly accepting more children than its designated capacity and surreptitiously cutting costs by serving smaller lunches.

The Wanzu Mazah Hoikuen nursery, in the city of Himeji, has an approved capacity of 46, but it accepted an extra 22 children after signing direct contracts with parents, Himeji officials said Sunday. The nursery cold lose its government support as early as this month.

For officially recognized admissions, fees are determined by the city based on the income of parents. But the nursery set its own criteria and collected monthly fees of ¥20,000 to ¥40,000 each from the parents of the additional 22 children.

The nursery is also suspected of slashing expenses by ordering lunches for 30 to 40 children despite taking care of 70, city officials said.

Due to the reduced servings, some children were given only a spoonful of side dishes, the officials said. The nursery sometimes served leftover lunches that were kept in a refrigerator or freezer for several days.

In a freezer at the facility, the city found curry without a date and a side dish apparently from May last year, the officials said.

In order to qualify for the full amount of government funding, the nursery also reported a larger number of teachers than it actually hired, the officials said.

The city has not received any reports of health problems or abuse at the nursery, they added.

The situation came to light after the prefecture and the city were tipped off. A special inspection was conducted on Feb. 23.

The nursery managed to avoid being caught during past inspections by submitting a forged attendance book.

The nursery was officially recognized by the Hyogo Prefectural Government in March 2015 and has received public funding of around ¥50 million annually.

The principal, Ikuko Obata, told the city that she felt bad about accepting children beyond the limit allowed but that the facility’s management felt it could not reject requests by parents, according to the city officials.

She also offered an explanation about the lunch orders.

“I thought it was a waste to throw away leftovers so we gradually cut back order quantity,” she was quoted as saying. “As a result, the servings have decreased.”

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