• Kyodo, Staff Report

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A private nursery school in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, will on Saturday be stripped of its certification after it was found to be secretly accepting children beyond its designated capacity, according to prefectural officials.

Ikuko Obata, the principal of Wanzu Mazah Hoikuen, did not attend hearings by the municipal and prefectural governments on Wednesday after submitting a statement that she has “no objection” to the retraction, the officials said.

Also on Wednesday, the municipal government decided the nursery will no longer be eligible for public funding. It will consult with the central and prefectural governments before deciding how much the nursery should return.

The city is also considering filing a criminal complaint against the nursery over alleged fraud, city officials said.

“The problem was the principal’s lack of sense of awareness and morality,” a city official told a news conference on Wednesday. “It was an irregular operation that is not often seen.”

The prefecture could potentially also strip Obata of her child care qualification, the officials said.

On Thursday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga backed the decision to retract the nursery school’s certification, saying it had provided “extremely poor child care.”

“We will find out what has happened and how the prefecture and city responded, examine the incident and consider necessary measures to prevent a recurrence, including how to better supervise” nursery schools, Suga said.

According to the prefectural government, the nursery was already exceeding its designated capacity when it was certified by the prefectural government in March 2015.

At overcapacity, the nursery was unable to secure additional space per child and made false reports to the prefecture, including inflating the number of staff it employed, according to the prefecture.

In a separate statement to the media on Wednesday, Obata said, “The nursery accepted children over its capacity, as I went too far ahead in trying to help resolve the problem of children on waiting lists.”

“I will accept the administrative punishment seriously and apologize with sincerity,” she said.

A special inspection by the local governments in February found that the nursery had accepted an extra 22 children beyond its approved capacity of 46 after signing direct contracts with parents.

The nursery was also found to be preparing enough lunch for about 40 children when it was actually feeding closer to 70 children.

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