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1/4 of int'l schools in Japan found to lack nurse's office

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TOKYO -- The education ministry's first survey on the health and hygiene conditions surrounding children who attend international schools or other schools catering to foreign nationals in Japan has revealed that a quarter of the schools did not have nurse's offices, while only around 79% of institutions carried out health checkups.

    The results of the questionnaire conducted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology were announced at an expert panel meeting held by the ministry on June 23. Experts have pointed out the need to provide financial support and human resources, which are essential elements to improve school environments.

    Many schools for foreign nationals in Japan fall under the category of "miscellaneous schools" under the School Education Act, and are exempt from the School Health and Safety Act, which is applicable to regular schools in the country. Therefore, international schools are not obligated to set up nurse's offices and other facilities, and are entrusted to make their own decisions.

    The survey was conducted between April and May, targeting the 161 nationwide schools catering to foreign nationals, which the education ministry is aware of, and responses were obtained from 80 schools. While over 90% of these schools had taken anti-coronavirus measures, such as temperature checks upon arriving at school and ventilation of classrooms, only 75%, or 60 schools, had nurse's offices, and only around 79%, or 63 schools, answered that they conducted student health checkups.

    Yoshimi Kojima, associate professor at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, who attended the expert panel meeting, said, "I'm worried about the situation at the half of the schools that didn't respond to the survey. It is also unknown whether the schools that answered they have nurse's offices have set up individual rooms or just beds, and a further study is necessary."

    Furthermore, taking into account the reality at Brazilian schools which she has supported, Kojima said that she had never seen a room designated as a school infirmary, and commented, "Expenses and community networks are indispensable for independently implementing nurse's offices and conducting health checkups. The School Health and Safety Act should be applied to schools for foreign nationals, and support in the form of human resources and financial aid should be provided."

    (Japanese original by Mei Nammo, Tokyo City News Department)

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