While the JET Programme is famous for developing flexibility, grit and dynamism in its teachers, certain policies fall short of supporting JETs in their role. In particular, the COVID-19 world pandemic has highlighted some disparities. Although JETs are asked to adapt to their individual circumstances, on the administrative level (a role played by the individual contracting organizations, CLAIR — the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations — and the education ministry), unfortunately, I have seen the exact opposite. Specifically, the inflexibility with respect to JETs upon completing the full term of their appointed contract who are entitled to a free return ticket to their home country.
The Japanese agencies in charge of the program are insisting that JETs leave within a month of completing their program. However, some departing JETs are not allowed to return to their home country! (South Africa for example is only selectively allowing citizens to re-enter.) Furthermore, many departing JETs are being asked to return to countries via long, convoluted routes after their service as a JET in rural Japan. These departing JETS are subject to long periods of time in the air, with many diverted tickets, and even cancellations. Even if they are not sick, Japan's policies are forcing them to take abnormal risks after having successfully completed their teaching contracts in Japan.
The Tokyo Board of Education, CLAIR and the education ministry are showing very little room for flexibility. Departing JETs are being asked to give up their promised return fare if they do not leave within the narrow window provided. For some of these people, the economic realities are too heavy to bear. They are being forced to leave with no consideration for their safety and health. Though the intended purpose of the JET Programme was to create better cross-cultural understanding, we JETs are in uncharted waters in the time of COVID-19. A story on this note will shine a spot light on this once prestigious program.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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