National / Social Issues

Virus cuts off educational support for Japan's children of foreign descent

Kyodo

Around 70 percent of about 100 nonprofit groups and individuals offering educational support to children of foreign descent across Japan have stopped or cut back on their operations amid the coronavirus epidemic, an online poll showed.

The poll — conducted by the Youth Support Center in Fussa, western Tokyo, between April 15 and 21 — targeted groups and individuals nationwide that help children with foreign roots learn the Japanese language and assist their studies in general.

In addition to schools or community centers being closed amid the outbreak, the poll also showed there was only limited online interaction with the children, either because there was no internet available at the students’ homes or because the aging educational assistants lack the relevant technical knowledge.

One survey respondent said it is “difficult to teach children online with the level of Japanese they have.”

Responses also highlighted the plight of the children amid the prolonged school closures. Many cite having no time for themselves as they are busy translating news on the virus epidemic for their parents who do not understand Japanese and who are stranded in lockdown in their home countries.

Loss of jobs and drastic falls in income for parents are also compelling issues, with the survey finding cases of families uncertain about whether their children can continue to go to school and worried about having to move out of their rented housing.

Some supporters of children with foreign roots have reported their current situation and sought cooperation from local schools and boards of education, but Iki Tanaka of the Youth Support Center said, “More support from society is needed.”

“Support groups are short of funds and not many are able to flexibly deal with the emergency,” she said.

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