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Classes resume at Japan high school where teachers went on strike over unpaid salaries

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HIDAKAGAWA, Wakayama -- Classes resumed on May 12 at a private high school in this western Japan town where teachers had gone on strike the previous day over unpaid salaries and other problems.

    Teachers at Wakayama Nanryo High School apparently decided to resume classes because school operator Nanryo Gakuen, based in central Japan's Shizuoka Prefecture, had informed them that the corporation would hold explanatory meetings for school staff on May 13 and for students' guardians by June 20. However, the corporation's chairperson Kazutoshi Ono issued a written statement on the evening of May 12 saying that he would cancel the next day's meeting because confusion was anticipated due to media coverage. The statement said that he intends to hold a meeting some other time.

    It came to light in April that the school had not paid assistance grants to students' guardians by the due date. Teachers and other school staff members demanded the operator explain about the unpaid assistance grants and salaries, and canceled classes on May 11 on the grounds that "the school corporation side's response was insincere."

    The school held an assembly in the gymnastic hall on the morning of May 11, and the vice principal told the students, "We apologize for having no choice but to cancel classes, which are the most important thing for you all." Students apparently studied independently over a total of 24 course hours from the first through third grades due to the absence of teachers.

    However, Nanryo Gakuen insisted in a document dated May 12 that "it's not true that 'an appropriate response was not made.'"

    According to sources affiliated with the school, assistance grants totaling some 20 million yen (about $160,000) were paid in late April after the school was ordered to do so by the Wakayama Prefectural Government.

    However, the school's poor management has become a focal point. The April salaries for 23 school staff members have still not been paid. Chairperson Ono expressed an apology to teachers and other school employees, saying, "This is our fault, even though we have made efforts despite lacking sufficient operating funds." Furthermore, gas supplies to the school's dormitory were temporarily stopped this month due to unpaid bills, leaving students unable to cook or bathe at the dorm. The school has still not reportedly paid to students' guardians mutual aid money from the Japan Sport Council, which is supposed to be granted in cases such as students getting injured, and part of the difference in costs for last autumn's school trip, whose destination was changed from overseas to within Japan.

    According to the Wakayama Prefectural Government, it subsidizes current expenses such as manpower costs for private schools at the end of each year and the end of each academic year, which is March in Japan. An official at the Shizuoka Prefectural Government commented, "We are taking the school staff's boycott very seriously. We will conduct a survey with Wakayama Prefecture to check the corporation headquarters' financial condition."

    (Japanese original by Atsuhisa Kato and Satoshi Yamaguchi, Wakayama Bureau)

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