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Move to open junior high night school in Fukuoka receives warm welcome

A woman from the Philippines, foreground, practices writing kanji at the independent night school "Yomikaki Kyoshitsu" in Fukuoka's Hakata Ward in this photo taken on April 28, 2021. The school has been forced to close several times due to the spread of the coronavirus. (Mainichi/Akihiko Tsuchida)

FUKUOKA -- The Fukuoka Municipal Government is set to open a nighttime junior high school in the spring of 2022 -- the first such public facility to open among the Kyushu, Yamaguchi, and Okinawa regions that have been devoid of such institutions.

    The planned school has been welcomed by related parties as a place of learning for those who for various reasons have been unable to go through compulsory education, and takes the prefecture a step ahead of other areas where the establishment of such schools has not yet progressed.

    The Fukuoka City Board of Education conducted a survey via its website and other places in April and May this year on the need for a nighttime junior high school. A total of 196 people indicated that they would like to attend. Of these, 163 were aged from their 10s to their 40s.

    Yoichiro Hirakawa, head of the city education board's educational policy division, commented, "We found out there was a certain degree of need, and so we want to establish it in the shortest time frame possible." It is envisaged that about 40 people will actually enroll in the school. On Sept. 13, the municipal assembly approved a budget of approximately 33 million yen (roughly $300,196) to set up the school, including the renovation of city education board facilities.

    "It's important to build it first. It's a step forward," said Masazumi Otsuka, 68, a former junior high school teacher and co-representative of the independent nighttime junior high school "Yomikaki Kyoshitsu," which offers academic support to people who did not receive compulsory education, in the city of Fukuoka.

    The school was set up by volunteer teachers in 1997, and about 30 people from their 10s to 80s attend classes, which are held at a public junior high school in Fukuoka's Hakata Ward twice a week. The students include older people who lost the opportunity to study in the turmoil after World War II, and young people of foreign nationality, among others.

    One man in his 20s from Nepal, who started attending classes last summer said he had come to Japan seeking work, while relying on his father and other relatives. As he continues to work in a restaurant in the city, he learns phrases such as, "It was raining," and, "The library was closed" in the classroom from textbooks he picked out. The man was not able to receive a sufficient education in his own country corresponding to compulsory education in Japan. When he heard from Otsuka about the night school, he aspired to attend.

    Another 24-year-old man who went through a period of nonattendance at junior high school started attending classes three years ago, and is currently studying at a part-time high school in hopes of advancing to university. "At a time when I thought I wanted to rebuild my life, I was accepted into Yomikaki Kyoshitsu, and I also developed as a person," he recalled. Many people around him had also gone though periods of nonattendance at school, and he reflected, "If there were public nighttime junior high schools I think it would be easy to attend."

    Completing a course at a public nighttime junior high school qualifies a student to graduate from junior high, and in contrast with independent study, which has its limits, the lessons offer a wider range of education. In 2017, Otsuka submitted a petition to the city assembly with over 9,700 signatures requesting the establishment of a nighttime junior high school. He likened the night school to a light shining over a dark sea, and said, "I think it's important for organizations like ours to share wisdom to operate the facility so we can respond to people's earnest desire to live in society."

    (Japanese original by Akihiko Tsuchida, Kyushu News Department)

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